Iran has long-range cruise missiles with large capacity, thanks to Ukraine.
Friday March 18, 2005 1:31 PM
By ALEKSANDAR VASOVIC
Associated Press Writer
KIEV, Ukraine (AP)- Ukrainian weapons dealers smuggled 18 nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China during former President Leonid Kuchma's administration, prosecutors said Friday. The missiles have the range to reach U.S. allies.
The Kh55 cruise missiles were smuggled out of Ukraine four years ago, the Prosecutor General's office said Friday in a statement. Prosecutors said the missiles, which have a range of 1,860 miles, were sold illegally and were not exported by Ukrainian enterprises.
The Associated Press reported exclusively on Feb. 4 that a government probe into lucrative illicit weapons sales by officials loyal to Kuchma has led to secret indictments or arrests of at least six arms dealers accused of selling nuclear-capable missiles to Iran and China.
``The proceedings against persons implicated (in the illicit sale) have been forwarded to the Kiev Court of Appeals and are being heard behind closed doors,'' Friday's statement said.
Last month, the AP reported that missiles purportedly ended up in Iran and China although export documents known as end-user certificates recorded the final recipient of some 20 Kh55 missiles as ``Russia's Defense Ministry,'' according to a letter written by a lawmaker to current President Vladimir Yushchenko.
The letter by lawmaker Hrihoriy Omelchenko did not say what happened to the other missiles. The Kh55, known in the West as the AS-15, is designed to carry a nuclear warhead with a 200-kiloton yield.
The missiles allegedly sold to Iran were unarmed. The United States and other Western nations have accused Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapons program, an allegation Tehran denies.
Iran does not operate long-range bombers but it is believed Tehran could adapt its Soviet-built Su-24 strike aircraft to launch the missile. The missile's range would put Israel and a number of U.S. allies within reach.
This augments their tactical nuclear weapons acquired from Kazakhstan in 1992.
....In December, the Kazakh deal came to fruitition, and Iran made its first purchase of nuclear weapons. The deal included two 40-kiloton warheads for a SCUD-type surface-to-surface ballistic missile; one aerial bomb of the type carried by a MiG-27; and one 152-mm nuclear artillery shell. These weapons reached initial operational status in late January 1992 and full operational status a few months later.”
With the addition of enriched uranium or plutionium Iran will have (1) nuclear artillery shells (2) medium-range nuclear SSM's (3) air-dropped nuclear bombs (4) and long-range high-throw weight nuclear cruise missiles. The nuclear artillery shell design would be particularly useful in creating nuclear weapons for terrorists.