NATO Candidates Armed Rogue States: Polish Company Sold Tanks to Iran

Article excerpt

Several prospective members of NATO are involved in arms sales to countries identified by the United States as sponsors of terrorism, a classified CIA report says.

Poland, a leading candidate to join the alliance this spring, has made five shipments to Iran of T-72 tanks, equipment and trainers, with the latest delivery taking place last summer, according to the CIA report, labeled "top secret."

A company in the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia, also a leading candidate for North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership, took part in a deal to supply M-60 tank transmissions and other tank parts to Iran, although part of the shipment was halted by the Slovenian government after U.S. government protests, the report said.

Bulgaria, being considered for eventual but not immediate membership in the alliance, sold much of the production equipment for a weapons factory to Sudan, and a Bulgarian firm, along with a Russian company based in Jordan, is suspected by the CIA of trying to ship MiG-29 aircraft batteries to Iraq, the report said.

Another Bulgarian company sold 15 metric tons of explosives to North Korea's military, the report said.

Bulgaria's new government announced Monday that it wants to join NATO, reversing an earlier pro-Moscow ambivalence about entering the alliance.

It is not clear whether the transfers outlined in the report are continuing or how they might affect the nations' prospects for joining NATO.

Several government officials noted that disclosure of the arms sales coincides with visits by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to European capitals for talks on expanding NATO.

"It's inexcusable for a potential NATO member to be sending militarily significant equipment to rogue regimes with interests that are antithetical to the United States'," said one official who declined to be named.

NATO expansion, however, could provide the means to make sure such arms sales are curbed, said the official, an expert on European affairs.

David Johnson, a National Security Council spokesman, would not comment directly on individual arms deals. "The U.S. is engaged in a broad-gauged effort to convince many nations to avoid providing states on our terrorism list with weapons and other products and services," he said.

Trading with terrorist states is contrary to U.S. policy. The annual State Department terrorism report said the policy calls for "bringing maximum pressure on states that sponsor and support terrorism by imposing economic, diplomatic and political sanctions and by urging other states to do likewise."

The alliance is expected to invite Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and possibly Slovenia to join the alliance after a meeting of representatives of the 16 nations this spring. Many other Central and Eastern European nations also are seeking membership in the alliance.

Russia continues to view NATO as an enemy and opposes expansion.

Poland, Slovenia and Bulgaria are not the primary suppliers of arms to terrorist nations. According to the CIA report, "China, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia and Iran are the leading suppliers or brokers" of weapons to terrorist-supporting nations.

Ukraine, a member of the Pentagon's Partnership for Peace program and a prospective NATO member, concluded deals with Libya to sell short-range missiles and to service Libyan submarines and surface vessels.

Alexander Skibidnetzki, a top Ukrainian intelligence official, said recently in Kiev that two Ukrainian ministries had "working contacts" with Libyan government and industrial entities but that no contracts resulted. …