By Kadyr Toktogulov
December 30, 2009
ALMATY, Kazakhstan–The governments of Kazakhstan and Iran Wednesday refuted media reports that Iran is close to securing a deal to secretly import 1,350 metric tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it “categorically repudiates certain news media reports alleging Kazakhstan’s connection to a possible deal to supply uranium to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and considers them groundless insinuations damaging the reputation of our country.
“All the operations with nuclear materials in Kazakhstan, including our cooperation regarding the peaceful use of atomic energy with foreign countries, are subject to [International Atomic Energy Agency] comprehensive safeguards.”
Agence France Presse quoted the Iranian Foreign Ministry as describing the reports as “utterly fabricated and baseless.”
The Associated Press news agency reported late Tuesday that “Iran was close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan,” citing an intelligence report obtained by the agency.
It reported that Iran was willing to pay $450 million to secure the deal, which involved Kazakh state employees acting on their own without the approval of the Kazakh government.
The story said that the intelligence report “was drawn up by a member nation” of the IAEA and provided to the news agency on condition that the country wasn’t identified.
The intelligence report could add to worries over Iran’s intentions to build nuclear power plants that the international community views as lacking transparency and compliance by international standards.
The U.S. warned Tuesday that any transfer of uranium to Iran would violate United Nations Security Council sanctions.
Uranium-rich Kazakhstan–which produced 13,500 tons of uranium this year and became the world’s top uranium producer, surpassing Canada–has aspirations to host an international fuel bank as part of global nonproliferation efforts.
“Kazakhstan is firmly committed to the principles of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and tough control over the turnover of dual use materials,” the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said in its statement Wednesday.
It said that it expected the IAEA “to give an appropriate assessment” of information reported in media.
Kazakh state nuclear fuel company Kazatomprom declined to comment on the news report.
Kazatomprom said in a statement earlier Wednesday that it would produce an additional 400 tons of uranium by the end of this year, and expects its 2010 production to reach 18,000 tons.
Foreign Ministry Web site: www.mfa.kz
-By Kadyr Toktogulov, Dow Jones Newswires; +7 701 726 4327,
(Nick Heath in London contributed to this item)