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WASHINGTON – The United States has arrested and charged an Iranian semiconductor scientist with violating U.S. export laws by buying high-tech U.S. lab equipment, a development likely to further worsen Iranian-U.S. tensions.
Prison records show the U.S. has been holding Seyed Mojtaba Atarodi, 54, a microchip expert and assistant professor at Tehran's prestigious Sharif University of Technology, in a federal facility in Dublin, Calif., outside San Francisco. The Iranian interest section in the Pakistani embassy in Washington said it was aware of the arrest.
The arrest comes as the U.S., Israel and their allies are using diplomacy, sanctions and intelligence efforts to try to cripple what they suspect is Iran's drive to lay the foundations of a nuclear weapons program.
Atarodi is listed as the author or coauthor of dozens of scientific papers dealing with microchip technology, though none appears to be explicitly related to military work. U.S. officials in the past have targeted suspected export control violators dealing in so-called dual-use technology, which can have both civilian and military applications.
The U.S. and Israel, meanwhile, are believed to have recruited Iranian scientists as agents or encouraged them to defect. Some other Iranian researchers say they have been subject to harassment.