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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Seeks Scientists From Russia

NEW YORK -- Iran has recruited former Soviet germ warfare scientists for jobs in Tehran, with at least some of them being asked to work on a clandestine biological weapons program, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Officials with ties to Iran's top leadership have approached more than a dozen Russian biological warfare experts with high salary offers, the newspaper said, quoting Russian scientists and U.S. officials.

Though most of the biologists declined the offer, at least five had accepted as much as $5,000 a month to work in Iran, far more than most could make in a year in Russia, the report said, citing Russian scientists.

The counselor to Iran's mission to the United Nations, Gholamhossein Dehghani, "categorically rejected'' the claim that Iran was seeking to hire Russian germ warfare experts, the Times said.

He cited his country's ratification of the 1972 international treaty banning biological weapons.

In interviews conducted by the Times in Russia and neighboring Kazakhstan, two scientists were quoted as saying that they were specifically asked to help Iran develop biological weapons.

U.S. officials say many more Russian scientists have disclosed such contacts and believe that Iran is developing a germ arsenal, the Times said.

Officials who worked in the Soviet and U.S. germ warfare programs were quoted as saying that it is difficult to distinguish between pharmaceutical research and weapons development.

Russia's program, which is thought to have developed anthrax and smallpox weapons, employed some 70,000 scientists and technicians at its height.