China has finished building a major production plant in Iran for special equipment used in making chemical weapons, according to a classified U.S. intelligence report.
The top-secret document says that Chinese technicians completed work in June on a factory that makes "glass-lined equipment" but that final delivery of some equipment for the facility, along with chemical-weapons materials, was held up temporarily by the Beijing government.
"Glass-lined equipment is essential in the production of chemical warfare agent precursors and is controlled by the Australia Suppliers Group," the report says.
A U.S. official said building the equipment factory may violate the recently concluded Chemical Weapons Convention, which bars international cooperation in developing poison weapons and which both China and Iran have signed.
The Australia group is a 30-nation forum seeking to halt the spread of chemical and biological weapons by restricting transfers of equipment and materials - including glass-lined equipment needed to neutralize the corrosive effects of chemicals used in making poison gas.
China and Iran are not part of the group but may be subject to sanctions under U.S. proliferation law.
The factory was built by the Nanjing Chemical and Industrial Group, one of three Chinese companies sanctioned by the Clinton administration in May for selling chemical weapons equipment and materials to Iran.
The equipment factory is a "dual-use" production facility capable of producing chemical-warfare equipment as well as equipment for producing civilian chemicals like detergents.
U.S. officials familiar with the report said the factory poses a major threat because it not only bolsters Iran's large-scale chemical-weapons capability, but also presents new dangers that Iran will begin selling the glass-lined equipment to other nations seeking chemical arms.
U.S. intelligence officials say Iran has a stockpile estimated to include up to 2,000 tons of blister, choking and nerve agents. The agents include sarin nerve gas and mustard gas, deployed in aerial bombs, artillery shells, mines, mortars and short-range missile warheads.
The report said "overall" construction of the plant was completed in June but "raw materials" needed for operating the plant were held up by the Chinese government because of …