Washington, Apr 17: Iran has intensified efforts to illegally obtain nuclear weapons technology from the United States, according to media report today.
Iran has contracted with dealers across the country for spare parts, to maintain its aging American-made air force planes, missile forces and its alleged nuclear weapons program, the Washington Post said quoting federal law enforcement authorities.
For the last two years, arms dealers have either exported or attempted to export, to Iran experimental aircraft; machines used for measuring the strength of steel, which is critical in the development of nuclear weapons; assembly kits for F-14 Tomcat fighter jets; and a range of components used in missile systems and fighter-jet engines, the post reported.
''Iran's weapons acquisition program is becoming more organised.
They are looking for more varied and sophisticated technology. Night- vision equipment, unmanned aircraft, missile technology and weapons of mass destruction,'' Mr Stephen Bogni, who is the acting Chief of the Arms and Strategic Technology Investigations Unit of US Immigration and Customs Engorcement (ICE) was quoted as saying by the Post.
As tensions increase over Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program, so does the concern that might strike at US forces and personnel stationed in Iraq and other countries if the US or its allies take military action against the program, the Post reported.
Meanwhile, in the recent weeks, Tehran has announced new weapons systems, including missiles invisible to radar and torpedoes too fast to be avoided, although US experts have questioned Iran's assertions about its capabilities.
The Bush administration says it is committed to a diplomatic solution to address Iran's concerns of developing nuclear weapons, while Iran says its meant only for peaceful purposes like generating electricity.
In the past few months, Tehran has flouted UN Security Council demands that it abandon key parts of its program, and, last week, it announced that it had successfully enriched uranium.
The US during 1960s and '70s, sold some of its most advanced weapons systems to Iran. Iran's air force received F-14 Tomcats, F-5 Tigers, F-4 Phantoms, C-130 transport planes and helicopters manufactured by Bell, Boeing and Sikorsky. The US sales ended with the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Iran's war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988 led to the depletion of Iran's weaponry. Further restrictions from US on Iran came in 1995, when President Bill Clinton signed an order effectively prohibiting almost all trade and investment between the two countries.
There have been 17 major cases since 2002, involving the illegal shipment of weapons technology to Iran. Since 2000, the US government has instituted 800 export investigations involving Iran, the Post reported.