The Russian government has strengthened controls designed to stop the transfer of advanced missile technology to Iran, the head of the Russian Space Agency (RSA) informed U.S. officials in Washington last week. Yury Koptev was in Washington for the signing of an agreement to launch the international space station. But Koptev also said that his agency would feel free to maintain Iranian contacts that are not in violation of those controls or of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which Russia signed in 1996.
Koptev’s remarks follow months of accusations from the United States and Israel that Russian specialists and some Russian organizations — including the RSA — are involved in an Iranian project to develop ballistic missiles. Russian leaders have repeatedly denied those charges. But, at least in part because of pressure from the United States, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on January 22 ordered the tighter government controls on defense related exports to which RSA head Koptev referred. (See Monitor, January 19, January 26) Koptev said that the new measures give his agency special powers to investigate potential technology exports. (AP, UPI, January 30)
During the Washington visit, according to Koptev, U.S. authorities presented evidence of thirteen incidents in which military technology transfers were attempted. Koptev admitted that two of those transfers involved dual-use technologies that might have aided the Iranian missile program. He added, however, that both of those deals were squelched by Russian intelligence services "before any materials were passed to the Iranian side." Of the other eleven cases, he said only that they did not violate Russia’s obligations under the MTCR. (Itar-Tass, January 31)
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