- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) | Australia recently blocked several export shipments to Iran because of concern the cargo may have been destined for Tehran’s nuclear weapons programs, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Thursday.

The bans were ordered by the defense minister under laws aimed at preventing the proliferation of material that could be used in weapons of mass destruction.

“In the case of Iran, the defense minister has on a number of occasions — I’m advised three — exercised his power under the act and has done so entirely appropriately,” Mr. Rudd told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Mr. Rudd declined to say what the material in the shipments was, or give details about when they were blocked.

The Australian newspaper first reported the blocked shipments and said one of them was understood to include pumps that could have been used to cool nuclear power plants. The report said there were up to three other shipments - one more than Mr. Rudd mentioned - but that no details were known about them.

Australia has imposed various trade sanctions on Iran as part of U.N. efforts to persuade the Middle East country to end its nuclear programs.

Mr. Rudd said that Iran’s nuclear ambitions posed a threat to global peace and international pressure must continue to convince Tehran to abandon them.

“If you look at the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and their consistent thumbing of the nose to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the international community more broadly and the continuation of their nuclear weapons program despite international condemnation, there are no alternatives other than to maintain a hard line,” he said.

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