Russia, Kazakhstan Deny Iran Has Obtained Soviet Nuclear Warheads
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian and Kazakh officials today denied a German magazine report that Iran has obtained two middle-range nuclear missiles and their delivery systems from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.
The Hamburg-based Stern magazine said Sunday that Vice President Paul Muenstermann of Germany’s federal intelligence service reported the development to the Chancellory’s security service more than two weeks ago.
Iran has not, however, obtained the codes needed to detonate the warheads, nor does it possess a suitable launching mechanism, the magazine said.
″The information is not true,″ said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Ivan Skrylnik. ″All nuclear weapons are under the strictest centralized control and selling them or stealing them is impossible.″
A spokesman for President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan described the Stern article as just ″another canard.″
″Our president has more than once emphasized that our nuclear weapons are under safe control,″ said the spokesman, Sultan Murtaov. He said Kazakhstan was ″living up to its obligations on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.″
An official at the German federal intelligence service refused to comment on the Stern report today.
Stern had speculated that Iran would use the warheads for study as part of its own nuclear weapons development program.
This week’s editions of U.S. News and World Report quote an unidentified high-ranking Russian officer in Moscow as confirming a U.S. intelligence report that three short-range nuclear weapons have vanished from a former Red Army arsenal in Kazakhstan.
The magazine said analysts suspect the weapons have been sold to Iran, possibly with the cooperation of several Kazakh nuclear specialists who were recently seen in Tehran.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Zelentsov, deputy chief of the main department of the commonwealth armed forces, said the U.S. News and World Report article was ″absolutely unfounded.″
He said, ″neither Kazakh, nor any other scientists have access to that kind of ammunition, and they cannot have access to them because of specifics in their stockpiling.″
The military command of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which assumed control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal, says all the weapons are located in four republics - Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus - and are guarded by special troops.