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U.N. sees North Korea exporting nuclear technology: envoy

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A new U.N. report suggests that North Korea has been using front companies to export nuclear and missile technology and has helped Iran, Syria and Myanmar, a Western diplomat said.

The findings were detailed in a report by a U.N. panel of experts charged with monitoring compliance with Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, the diplomat told Reuters late on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

“The details in the report are not entirely surprising,” the diplomat told Reuters. “Basically it suggests that North Korea has exported nuclear and missile technology with the aid of front companies, middlemen and other ruses.”

“The point is that North Korea has been providing that kind of aid to Iran, Syria and Burma (Myanmar),” he said.

The diplomat said the evidence was preliminary and would need further investigation.

Western intelligence officials and diplomats have long suspected North Korea was providing banned technology to Iran, which the United States and its allies suspect is developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program.

Tehran denies the charges and insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.

Western spy agencies also have suspected that Myanmar was interested in acquiring nuclear technology from North Korea.

In 2007, Israel bombed what Western officials said was a Syrian nuclear reactor based on a North Korean design. Syria also denies being involved in clandestine nuclear activity.

The North Korea report reached members of the U.N. Security Council as the 15-nation panel prepares for a possible discussion of allegations that the North Korea attacked a South Korean naval ship in March, killing 46 sailors.

Pyongyang was hit with U.N. sanctions after testing nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. Those sanctions include bans on the export or import of nuclear and missile technology by communist North Korea.

Iran has been hit with three rounds of U.N. sanctions for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program. It rejects Western allegations that it is seeking atomic weapons and says its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.

The Security Council is currently negotiating on a draft resolution that would impose a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran.

Editing by Bill Trott