4 Min Read
* Norway detects "very pushy" Iranian technology hunters
* Firms are targeted for missile components -security chief
* Approaches seem innocent, then escalate -security chief
By Walter Gibbs
OSLO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Iran has been trying without success to obtain Norwegian missile technology for possible use in delivering nuclear weapons, Norway's security chief said on Monday.
Janne Kristiansen, general director of the Norwegian Police Security Service, told Reuters Iran had approached small Norwegian companies that sell "special components that can ... be used in weapons of mass destruction, for building missiles".
Iranian efforts the past year, she said, targeted dual-use technology suitable for civilian products as well as advanced missiles like those that Norwegian contractor Kongsberg Defence Systems (KOG.OL) makes for several NATO navies and air forces.
"There are many (companies in Norway) that supply missile technology," she said. "I am not pointing the finger at one company."
The West fears Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear programme is for producing electricity.
Kongsberg Defence spokesman Ronny Lie said his company had hundreds of suppliers.
"We are a large state-owned company that always follows a strict export regime in our dealing with other nations," he said. "I would assume Iran knows that. So that's why if they do make approaches it would probably be to small companies."
He added that Kongsberg "has been aware of the general problem for a long time".
Kristiansen said her agency discovered Iran's attempts and stepped in before sensitive technology was passed.
In an assessment of Norwegian security threats that was published on Monday, her agency described "very pushy behaviour" by supposed commercial actors from Iran who would often inquire about innocuous products first.
They would then widen their wish list to include sensitive goods "and often make various proposals for transport and financing to circumvent Norwegian export regulations", the agency said.
In its written assessment the agency did not specify missile technology as Iran's target, as Kristiansen did in an interview. Nor were any companies named.
Kristiansen said no Norwegian firms had been prosecuted because investigators lacked proof of intent to violate export controls or United Nations sanctions banning the sale of nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran.
When asked if some firms have intentionally skirted regulations, she said: "Some do."
"These companies have as a rule had good knowledge of potential loopholes and weaknesses in Norwegian export regulations and control mechanisms," the security service said in its published assessment.
"We have also seen how small companies with falling revenues and liquidity problems can become potential targets for procurement actors. Such firms are in a vulnerable position and will potentially have a hard time saying no to lucrative contract offers."
Timothy Moore, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Norway, declined to say whether the United States was involved in disclosing the Iranian attempts.
"We have known for some time that Iran has been pursuing high technology around the world and we are naturally concerned, and that's why we work closely with Norway and our other European partners," he said.