OSLO (Reuters) - Iran has been developing contacts in more than 30 countries to acquire technology, equipment and raw materials needed to build a nuclear bomb, a Norwegian newspaper said on Sunday, citing U.S. diplomatic cables.
Aftenposten said that according to the cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, more than 350 Iranian companies and organizations were involved in the pursuit of nuclear and missile technology between 2006 and 2010.
Iran says its nuclear program has purely peaceful aims but the West suspects is designed to develop a weapons capability.
“For years, Iran has been working systematically to acquire the parts, equipment and technology needed for developing such weapons, in violation of U.N. sanctions against the country’s nuclear and missile program,” Aftenposten said.
Aftenposten has said that it has all 250,000 U.S. cables leaked to WikiLeaks, most of which have not yet been published, and is gradually releasing them.
It cited sources as saying Iran is racing to develop nuclear weapons before its already crippled economy succumbs to the sanctions. “A race exists between the bomb and financial collapse,” the daily cited a cable quoting a French nuclear expert.
Iran was practically out of uranium, which it needs to enrich for use in weapons, forcing Tehran to look abroad for more radioactive material, cables said.
“Iran’s limited domestic supply of uranium makes it practically impossible to supply the nation’s current and future nuclear power plant capacity,” said a U.S. State Department note from February 2009.
“Consequently, the Iranians are likely to be forced into dealing with foreign suppliers to get uranium for their domestic nuclear industry,” it added.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier this month that the sanctions had set back Iran’s nuclear program, giving major powers more time to persuade Tehran to change tack.
Tehran is due to hold talks with the major powers on the nuclear program in Istanbul on January 21-22.