Washington Levies Sanctions for WMD-Related Transfers to Iran

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THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION imposed sanctions on 12 Chinese, Moldavian, and Armenian firms and individuals May 9 for transferring items to Iran that could assist Tehran with missile development or the production of chemical or biological weapons.

The administration levied the sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, which mandates penalties for entities that transfer to Iran equipment and technology controlled under multilateral export control regimes. These informal arrangements include the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, which seek to coordinate member states' policies on chemical and biological weapons-related and missile-related exports, respectively.

The sanctions, which are effective for two years, specifically bar the U.S. government from providing assistance to or engaging in business with any of the sanctioned entities, and they effectively prevent U.S. companies from doing so. Several of the entities are already under U.S. sanctions, but at a May 16 press conference State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that imposing further penalties served to extend the time the entities remain under sanctions.

Little information about the transfers that triggered the sanctions is publicly available. According to a U.S. official, the State Department is "not in a position to describe the transfers or the roles of the entities in them."

However, according to intelligence officials cited in a May 20 Washington Times article, some of the transfers by Chinese entities involved glass-lined equipment, which could be used while developing chemical weapons. The report also cited officials claiming that other Chinese entities were sanctioned for selling cruise missile components to Iran.

Of the eight penalized Chinese entities, Liyang Chemical Equipment Company, China National Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company, and Chinese citizen Q. C. Chen were sanctioned in January for transfers controlled by the Australia Group. At that time, the State Department said Chen had provided assistance to Iran's chemical weapons program. (See ACT, March 2002.)

The administration is also sanctioning Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant, most likely for chemical weapon-related transfers; Wha Cheong Tai Company; China Shipbuilding Trading Company; China National Aero-- Technology Import and Export Corporation; and China Precision Machinery Import/Export Corporation, which was sanctioned in June 1991 for transferring M-11 short-range missiles to Pakistan. …