Iran Luring Russian Experts
In Germ Warfare
WASHINGTON -- (Agence France Presse) Iran is hiring Russian scientists who worked in germ warfare programs and may be developing a biological arsenal, The New York Times said Tuesday.
While dozens of Russian scientists contacted by Iranian officials have rejected the offers, at least five have been lured away by salaries of $5,000 a month, Russian scientists and U.S. officials told the daily.
Other Russian researchers have accepted contracts that allow them to remain in Russia while they conduct research for Tehran, the sources said.
U.S. officials are concerned by the trend, saying that the 70,000 Russian scientists that worked for the once-secret Soviet germ weapons programs are in danger of being lured away by anyone with influence or cash, including "rogue states" or terrorists.
They said Iran has reasons for acquiring biological weapons since other countries in the region, including Israel, Syria and Iraq, are suspected of having germ arsenals.
An official with Iran's mission to the United Nations "categorically rejected" the claim that his country was hiring Russian biologists to work on germ warfare.
"We do not believe that having such weapons increases our security," said Gholamhossein Dehghani.
He said there were many foreign scientists working in Iran, but all of them doing peaceful research.
U.S. officials told the daily that while they believe Iran may have already turned some germs and toxins into weapons, they had little information on Iran's progress in this field.
Experts agreed that it is difficult to distinguish between offensive and peaceful germ research.
"Outside assistance is both important and difficult to prevent, given the dual-use nature of the materials and equipment being sought," the Central Intelligence Agency said in a recent report on Iran's alleged biological weapons program.