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China has betrayed one its closest allies by providing the United Nations with intelligence on Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear technology, diplomats have revealed.
Concern over Tehran's secretive research programme has increased in recent weeks after officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, discovered that Iran had obtained information on how to manufacture nuclear-armed weapons.
Chinese designs for centrifuges that refine uranium into a "weaponised" state have been found in Iran but these are thought to have come through a network controlled by the disgraced Pakistani scientist AQ Khan.
John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, said suspicions over the leakage of technology from China to Iran had long centred on uranium enrichment technology and their bilateral ballistic missile trade.
A spokesman for the IAEA said it did not comment on intelligence it received from its members.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) disclosed that the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons program has entered from "Readiness" to "Deployment" phase by establishing a center for command and control to obtain nuclear bomb.
Mr. Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI revealed that a new center known as "Field for Expansion and Deployment of Advanced Technologies" has been setup since April 2007 in Lavizan-2 site to replace the old center which was established in 2004.
The NCRI said the Iranian regime was also actively pursuing production of nuclear warheads at a site named Khojir, southeast of Tehran.
China and Russia have acted as a brake within the Security Council, consistently watering down a U.S.-led push to impose severe penalties on Tehran. A Chinese decision to provide information for a probe into Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program could be a sign of growing international unease about the Islamic republic's denials that it never tried to make nuclear weapons.
The new development was revealed to The Associated Press by two senior diplomats who closely follow the IAEA probe of Iran's nuclear program.
The IAEA declined comment and no one answered the phone Wednesday at either the Chinese or Iranian missions to the IAEA.
The diplomats — who requested anonymity because their information was confidential — said China was the most surprising of a substantial list of nations that have recently forwarded information that could be relevant in attempts to probe past or present nuclear weapons research by Iran.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Wednesday that he could not confirm that China had provided information on Iran.
"We've worked very well with China on the issue overall," McCormack said.
"We have known or felt for some time that both in the ballistic missile field and in the nuclear field there has been cooperation for some time," he said in a interview. "The Chinese have systematically denied cooperation in the nuclear field."
VIENNA, Austria — China, an opponent of harsh U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, has nonetheless recently provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with intelligence linked to Tehran's alleged attempts to make nuclear arms, diplomats have told The Associated Press.
One of the diplomats said the agency was also on the lookout for misleading information provided to it, either inadvertently or in attempts to falsely implicate Iran. One example, he said was a document showing experiments with implosion technology that can be used to detonate a nuclear device.
While the document appeared genuine, it was unclear whether it originated from Iran, said the diplomat.
Suspected weapons-related work outlined in the February presentation and IAEA reports preceding it include:
uranium conversion linked to high explosives testing and designs of a missile re-entry vehicle, all apparently interconnected through involvement of officials and institutions
procurement of so-called "dual use" equipment and experiments that also could be used in both civilian and military nuclear programs, and
Iran's possession of a 15-page document outlining how to form uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.
A U.S. intelligence estimate late last year said Tehran worked on nuclear weapons programs until 2003, while Israel and other nations say such work continued past that date.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday that the report was "totally groundless and out of ulterior motives.''