AP: Bolivia denied supplying uranium to Iran for its nuclear program, saying Tuesday that it has never produced the metallic element, a key ingredient for nuclear energy and weapons.
The Associated Press
By CARLOS VALDEZ
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia denied supplying uranium to Iran for its nuclear program, saying Tuesday that it has never produced the metallic element, a key ingredient for nuclear energy and weapons.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez joined top Bolivian officials in dismissing the allegations after a secret Israeli government report accused both nations of providing Iran with uranium.
Bolivian Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana called it nonsense and labeled Israel's intelligence agency a bunch of incompetent "clowns."
The Israeli Foreign Ministry document, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, cites previous Israeli intelligence assessments, saying "there are reports that Venezuela supplies Iran with uranium for its nuclear program" and that "Bolivia also supplies uranium to Iran."
During a visit to Brazil, Chavez said it's one more in a list of accusations meant to tarnish his government, including that "we're a paradise for drug trafficking, that we protect terrorists."
"I saw in the press yesterday … a supposed official document of the Israeli government where it says Venezuela is supporting Iran in the construction of the atomic bomb, that we're sending uranium," Chavez said. Without elaborating, he added: "They accuse us of anything."
Bolivian Mining Minister Luis Alberto Echazu said Bolivia doesn't produce uranium, though he acknowledged that officials believe the country has some untapped deposits.
"There isn't even a precise geological study of uranium deposits, and much less can there be talk of export" to another country, he said.
Bolivia's Foreign Ministry plans to issue a formal response to the accusation, he added. Venezuela's government has yet to comment.
Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales have built close ties with Iran and opposed Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Venezuela expelled Israeli diplomats in January to protest Israel's Gaza offensive, and Israel responded by booting Venezuelan envoys. Bolivia also severed ties with Israel over the fighting.
Israel's three-page report about Iranian activities in Latin America was prepared before a visit to the region by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who plans to attend a meeting of the Organization of American States in Honduras next week. It did not say where the alleged uranium originated.
Israel says Iran is building nuclear weapons, but Iran says its nuclear work is intended only to produce energy.
The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the charges, referring questions to Israeli officials. It did say that the U.S. is watching closely for any violations of U.N. resolutions that bar countries from selling sensitive material to Iran.
"All U.N. members are obligated to implement existing U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions on Iran," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. "We are certainly monitoring for any indication or any actions that might be in breach."