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DRCongo denies selling uranium to Iran

AFP | August 10 2006

The Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday denied a British press report that it sold uranium to Iran.

"The Shinkolobwe uranium mine (south-east DRC) has been officially closed since 1960 because it cost so much to exploit. Today, the DRC does not have the capacity to treat uranium and has never sold it to Iran," Congolese government spokesman Henri Mova Sakanyi told AFP.

Shinkolobwe is the only uranium mine in DRC, which recently emerged from five years of war.

The weekly Sunday Times newspaper reported at the weekend that Iran had tried to import uranium for its nuclear programme from DRC, but the shipment was intercepted in Tanzania, citing a senior Tanzanian customs officer.

A huge shipment of uranium 238 bound for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas was intercepted on October 22, 2005, by customs officials in Tanzania making a routine check, the officer told the newspaper.

The British weekly also cited a United Nations report, due to be considered by the Security Council, which said there was "no doubt" that a large shipment of uranium 238 was transported from DRC.

The customs official said the uranium shipment was found hidden in a consignment of coltan, a rare mineral, which was destined for smelting in Kazakhstan after being transported through Bandar Abbas.

The spokesman said his country was cooperating closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose experts had conducted an inspection of the Shinkolobwe mine in 2004.

Despite the official closure of the mine, which provided the uranium used to make the Hiroshima bomb, thousands of people continue to dig there illegally.

Iran has also denied importing uranium from DRC.

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