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Azerbaijan Says It Has Intercepted Suspicious Cargo To Iran

Aliyev at the December 6 announcement (Trend) BAKU, December 6, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijani authorities today said that they seized "a few years ago" nearly 22 tons of metal meant for neighboring Iran that can be used in the production of ballistic missiles, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The head of Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee, Aydin Aliyev, broke the news at a press briefing he gave in Baku today with U.S. Ambassador Ann Derse.

"This issue hasn't been discussed broadly in the media, but Azerbaijan's customs administration a few years ago seized 21.7 tons of a metal that can be used in the production of ballistic missiles," Aliyev said. "This cargo was transiting through Azerbaijan to the Islamic Republic of Iran. We also found out that this cargo was not meant for a third country."

Aliyev said joints that are usually used to attach nuclear warheads to bombers were found in the shipment.

Aliyev added that a number of people were prosecuted in connection with the seizure, but he did not say why it took authorities so long to make the information public. Neither did he elaborate on the circumstances and the date of the operation.

The United States and other Western countries say they suspect Iran of developing a military nuclear program -- a charge that Tehran denies.

(with Turan and APA)

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