Tuesday, August 17, 2004

South Africa, Iran discuss defense cooperation

South Africa, Iran discuss defense cooperation

"South Africa's Defense Minister Patrick "Terror" Lekota and his Iranian counterpart Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani met on Monday to discuss an expansion of mutual cooperation between the two countries, especially in the domain of defense, the Islamic Republic's news agency (IRNA) reported.

At the conclusion of the meeting the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral cooperation, which included an arrangement for South Africa to sell uranium to Iran, Channel 1 TV reported.

A South African spokesman for the Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the claim.

SA Defense Minister Lekota stressed that making peaceful use of nuclear energy "is the legitimate right of the Islamic Republic," the IRNA reported on Tuesday.

Lekota's visit to Iran was the first such visit by a South African defense minister since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Both the United States and Israel are convinced that Iran is adamantly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The IDF military intelligence branch issued a revised assessment on Tuesday saying that Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities will allow it to manufacture atomic bombs by 2007. Military intelligence's previous assessment put the date at 2005.

In June the International Atomic Energy Agency reiterated its concerns about Iran's nuclear programs.

In the past Iran has reportedly made use of North Korean and Pakistani expertise to develop its nuclear program, which the Islamic Republic swears is for peaceful energy purposes only.

South Africa has a domestic nuclear energy and research program as well as large natural deposits of uranium. During the Apartheid era South Africa had a covert nuclear weapons program that developed at least six nuclear warheads, along with a variety of missiles and other conventional weapons. These projects were undertaken with some cooperation from Israel."


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