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Armenia Denies Link With Uranium Seized In Georgia

Ashot Martirosian, head of the State Committee on Nuclear Safety, says that the uranium confiscated from two Armenian citizens was not stolen from the Metsamor plant.
YEREVAN -- A senior Armenian official says highly-enriched uranium confiscated by Georgian authorities from two Armenian citizens was not stolen from the Metsamor nuclear power plant or any other facility in Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Ashot Martirosian, the head of the State Committee on Nuclear Safety, insisted on November 16 that nuclear material security in the country is "at a level corresponding to international standards."

The two Armenians, Smbat Tonoyan and Hrant Ohanian, were arrested in Tbilisi in March on charges of smuggling 18 grams (0.6 ounces) of uranium from Armenia. They allegedly tried to sell it to an undercover Georgian police agent posing as a Islamic radical from Turkey.

Both men reportedly pleaded guilty at a closed trial that began earlier this month.

Garik Dadayan, another Armenian man who allegedly provided the uranium to Tonoyan and Ohanian, was arrested by Armenia's National Security Service (NSS) in April. The NSS said last week Dadayan was charged under an article of the criminal code that deals with nuclear-material smuggling.

Dadayan was previously arrested by Georgian border guards in 2003 while entering the country with 200 grams of highly-enriched uranium. He was deported to Armenia and spent several months in prison there.

Russian authorities reportedly told investigators about the 2003 case in which Dadayan had traveled to Georgia from Novosibirsk, Russia, which is home to a nuclear fuel manufacturing plant. Georgian authorities said the uranium he allegedly supplied to Tonoyan and Ohanian was 87 percent enriched, high enough for use in a nuclear weapon.

"There is no such heavily enriched uranium in Armenia," Martirosian said at a news conference. "Nuclear fuel used at the Armenian nuclear plant is of three types: 1.6 percent [enriched uranium], 2.4 percent, and 3.6 percent. That is the most enriched uranium existing in Armenia."

"All radioactive materials in Armenia, from the nuclear plant fuel to several micrograms of nuclear materials used by various organizations, are under the control of our agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency," Martirosian said.

He added that he is not even sure that the uranium seized by the Georgians was smuggled from Armenia.

"Since the investigation is not yet over, we don't know whether it passed through Armenia. Maybe it didn't pass through Armenia," he said.

An NSS spokesman told RFE/RL that the law-enforcement agency is trying to ascertain the smuggling route as part of its ongoing investigation into the case.