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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Urges Stop of Nuclear Flow to Iran

WASHINGTON -- A top U.S. State Department official called on Russian authorities Thursday to deter the illegal flow of nuclear technology to Iran through "prosecutions, fines and arrests'' of guilty parties.

"Public enforcement would be very important because it would send a signal to people who are part of this illicit trade that there are penalties attached,'' said Steven Sestanovich, a special adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration has been alarmed by evidence that Russian scientific institutes have been helping Iran build weapons of mass destruction. It has placed sanctions on 12 Russian institutes, including three last month, for allegedly leaking sensitive technology to Iran.

Sestanovich, speaking to reporters, said the administration believes the technology flow is continuing. "We need to see enforcement that shows the Russian government is committed to really making their export control system work,'' he said.

He credited Russia with showing more interest in taking American concerns into account. In contrast to the denials Russian officials were issuing last summer, they now say that the United States has a valid point, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov acknowledged that last month. He said the Russian government was working to stop the flow of nuclear technology to Iran, but conceded in a national television interview that American concerns were "entirely justified."

"Some of the cases that they [the Americans] have presented have turned out to be true," Maslyukov said in the wake of the U.S. sanctions. He added that the Americans only knew part of the story: "We sometimes catch more [people] red-handed than they do."

Iran says it has no interest in acquiring nuclear weapons and wants nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes.

Sestanovich reaffirmed that the Russian quota for launching U.S. space satellites will not be increased if American concerns are not addressed.

"The stakes for them are very substantial,'' he said. "It's in the order of $100 million a launch.''

But, he said, Russian officials themselves wonder whether the country's institutions are up to the job of solving the problem. Beyond that, he said, enforcement efforts could be thwarted by officials who agree to look the other way in exchange for payoffs.