Diplomats: Iran seeks to buy banned carbon fiber
Two International Atomic Energy Agency member nations diplomats independently report intelligence of Iran automaker company planning orders for carbon fiber banned by UN embargo that can be used for uranium enrichment. Iran Khodro denies claims, says 'limited number of executives instructed to make procurement'
Two diplomats say Iran's national car company has made plans to purchase large quantities of carbon fiber, which is under UN embargo because it could be used in the country's nuclear program. The automaker's chief executive denied it.
The two diplomats independently told The Associated Press that their countries' intelligence agencies had gathered information that Iran Khodro executives were planning international orders for carbon fiber.
Some would be used for fuel tanks in a new car that runs partly on compressed natural gas, the diplomats said.
But carbon fiber is also a component of advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Iran is enriching uranium that it says it wants only as nuclear fuel. The US and others fear it could be used in nuclear weapons.
The two diplomats from International Atomic Energy Agency member nations said their intelligence agencies had reported suspicions that Iran wanted carbon fiber at least partly for its nuclear program. They spoke on condition of anonymity because their information was confidential.
One of the diplomats told the AP that since early 2009, Iran Khodro has been taking steps for "a massive-scale procurement of carbon fiber."
Iran Khodro head Manouchehr Manteqi, acting on orders of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, has "instructed a limited number of senior company executives to make the procurement as soon as possible," the diplomat said.
The second diplomat told the AP that his country's intelligence services also believed Iran Khodro officials were preparing to make orders for carbon fiber.
Manteqi vehemently denied that. "Reports that we are after carbon fiber are wrong," he told reporters in Tehran Wednesday, responding to a question from the AP.
Iran's Supreme National Security Council oversees the country's nuclear program. It would be unusual for it to be involved in routine industrial production like car manufacture.
Iran Khodro officials said last month that their new Soren ELX sedan would use a hybrid engine that could run on diesel and natural gas. They offered no details of the materials it would use.
Iran has also used carbon fiber in the rotors of new, advanced centrifuges known as the IR-2, IR-3 and IR-4, which spin uranium gas to produce enriched uranium. Low-enriched uranium can be used as nuclear fuel. Much more enriched, it can be used in a warhead.
Iran has not said where it got the carbon fiber used in the IR-2, IR-3 and IR-4. It has displayed only a few finished models, a possible indication that it lacks carbon fiber and other materials under UN embargo.