- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2000

Russia is continuing to assist Iran's missile program despite efforts by the Clinton administration to halt the transfers, which involve support from Moscow's official space agency, officials told Congress yesterday.

"Iran is acquiring Russian technology, which could significantly accelerate the pace of its ballistic missile development program," CIA official John Lauder told a Senate subcommittee. "Assistance by Russian entities has helped Iran save years in the development of the Shahab-3, which was flight-tested in 1998 and twice again this year."

The Russian missile assistance also is helping Tehran build longer-range missiles named the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5, Mr. Lauder said.

Additionally, Russia is continuing to sell advanced conventional weapons to Iran despite a deal banning such sales, reached in 1995 by Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Mr. Lauder and Robert Einhorn, an assistant secretary of state in charge of stopping arms proliferation, testified during a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near East and South Asian affairs.

Mr. Einhorn said the Russian-Iranian arms trade is a "persistent problem" and that some "progress" was made in the past five years in seeking to curb Russian weapons transfers.

However, Russia's government has shown a "lack of determination" to halt missile-related and nuclear technology transfers that are helping Tehran build long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, he said.

"We are convinced that if Russia's leaders gave the matter sufficient priority, Iran's nuclear and missile procurement efforts in Russia could be stopped," Mr. Einhorn said.

Asked about the 1995 agreement, Mr. Einhorn said Russia has continued to supply arms under a loophole that permits shipments under existing contracts.

Asked if the administration can declare that the Russian Space Agency and its subsidiaries have halted missile technology sales to Iran, Mr. Einhorn said: "I doubt very much we are going to be able to make that assertion. In fact, I feel confident that we will have to report to you that a number of entities subordinate to the Russian Space Agency have in fact provided support for Iran's missile program."

The Russian government appointed Yuri Koptev, the space agency director, as the key official in discussions with the Clinton administration on the missile trade to Iran. Intelligence reports have linked Mr. Koptev to the covert missile support to Iran.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and subcommittee chairman, said "this administration has not solved the proliferation problem."

"The problem has grown decidedly worse, and the world is a far more dangerous place because of it," he said.

Weapons and technology transfers to Iran from Russia continue "unabated," he said.

"Just last month, Tehran again test-fired its Shahab-3 missile. That missile would be sitting in a box somewhere if it wasn't for the assistance of Russia to Iran. To my mind, we're facing a major crisis in the coming years, and responsibility can largely be laid at the feet of this administration."

Mr. Brownback said the 1995 agreement signed by Mr. Gore was supposed to halt the Russian weapons trade with Iran in exchange for a U.S. promise to let Moscow do business with U.S. defense contractors. The deal has given Russia $7.7 billion, mostly from satellite launches.

"It really should not have come as any surprise to anyone that despite the 1995 agreement, Russia continued to sell advanced conventional weapons to Iran," Mr. Brownback said.

The CIA's latest semiannual report to Congress on arms transfers stated that Russia is continuing to sell advanced conventional weapons to Iran.

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