- 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.