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VIENNA – Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained by The Associated Press. The assessment is heightening international concern about Tehran's nuclear activities, diplomats said.
Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashikbayev denied Wednesday his government was involved, saying that the ex-Soviet nation has fully observed its international obligations. "All Kazakhstan's activities in the uranium sphere have been under the IAEA control," he told the AP.
A spokesman for Kazatomprom, the Kazakh state uranium company, also denied involvement.
Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York described the report as "a fabrication and completely baseless," in a statement faxed to the AP in Tehran.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, "the transfer of any uranium yellowcake ... to Iran would constitute a clear violation of UNSC sanctions."
"We have been engaged with many of our international nonproliferation partners on Iran's illicit efforts to acquire new supplies of uranium over the past several years," he said.
A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was talking about confidential information said late Tuesday that Washington was aware of the intelligence report, but he declined to discuss specifics.
In New York, Burkina Faso's U.N. Ambassador Michel Kafando, a co-chair of the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee, referred questions Tuesday about a potential deal between Iran and Kazakhstan to his sanctions adviser, Zongo Saidou. Speaking in New York, Saidou told the AP that, as far as he knew, none of the U.N.'s member nations has alerted the committee about any such allegations.
"We don't have any official information yet regarding this kind of exchange between the two countries," Saidou said. "I don't have any information; I don't have any proof."