Albright Concedes `Concern' over China-Iran Transfers: Cites Items That Could Be Used to Make Biological Arms

Article excerpt

Chinese companies have sold equipment to Iran that could boost Tehran's large-scale effort to produce deadly biological weapons, according to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

"We have received reporting regarding transfers of dual-use items from Chinese entities to Iranian government entities which raise concern," Mrs. Albright said in written answers to questions posed by Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican.

Mrs. Albright said the administration has "encouraged China to adopt comprehensive and rigorous export controls" to prevent any cooperation with Iran's germ weapons program.

The Clinton administration has "no credible evidence" linking Chinese companies to biological warfare programs in Iraq, Syria or Libya, she said.

No details of the China-Iran transfer were disclosed in the Jan. 8 answers; Mrs. Albright offered to provide more in a secret briefing.

A U.S. intelligence official said the transfer involved a recent sale of equipment and vaccines with applications for civilian medical research as well as for producing biological weapons, so-called dual-use items.

"An Iranian capability in biological warfare could threaten the 15,000 U.S. servicemen and women in the [Persian] Gulf, as well as all our friends and allies in the region," said Mr. Bennett, who just returned from a fact-finding trip to the Middle East.

"The government of Iran is a known sponsor of terrorist groups suspected of bombing attacks on American forces," he said. "For any nation to sell them equipment to make germ warfare is the height of irresponsibility."

According to a Pentagon report released in April, Iran launched its biological weapons program in the 1980s and is "conducting research on toxins and organisms with biological warfare applications."

The report said that Iran has a biotechnical support structure that is capable of producing "many different biological warfare agents."

"Iran has evolved from piecemeal acquisition of bioprocessing equipment and is now pursuing complete biological production plants that could be converted to producing biological warfare agents," the report said. …