Via telegraph.co.uk -
Tehran is reported to have intensified its efforts to import sophisticated technology in response to the mounting international pressure it is facing to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, which many Western governments believe is aimed at building nuclear weapons.
Recent intelligence reports have revealed that officials from Iran's Ministry of Defence have held a series of meeting with companies based in Taiwan to buy hundreds of pressure transducers, which can be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Iran has been desperately trying to acquire the equipment for more than a year, but has been frustrated by the refusal of European and American companies to sell it material that might be used for its nuclear programme.
Even China, which in the past has been prepared to sell it specialist technology, is proving reluctant to do business after Beijing supported a censure motion passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last month following the revelation that Iran was building a second uranium enrichment facility at Qom.
Western intelligence officials say Iran has responded by concentrating its efforts on Taiwan, and has already managed to acquire a 100 transducers which have been secretly shipped to Tehran. The transducers were originally manufactured in Europe and then sold to a company in Taiwan, which then sold them on to Iran's defence ministry.
UN officials are now investigating whether the European companies are undertaking proper checks of end-user certificates for their equipment.
According to the intelligence reports, Iranian officials are now trying to negotiate further shipments of the highly restricted equipment from Taiwan.
Iran is banned from buying the equipment on the open market by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the international body set up to reduce nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials that can be used for building nuclear weapons.
"This is a serious loophole, as it enables Iran to acquire sophisticated equipment that can help it develop its nuclear programme," said a UN source. "Pressure needs to be applied to the companies involved to stop doing business with Tehran while it is still refusing to co-operate with the UN."
Earlier this year a Canadian of Iranian descent was arrested for trying to illegally ship a number of pressure transducers to Iran, which he had originally purchased in the US.