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IAEA: Over 20 Firms Supplied Nuke Black Market

An investigation of the black market supplying nations seeking nuclear arms has spread to more than 20 firms — some of them North American — the chief of the U.N. atomic agency told The Associated Press Friday. A senior diplomat identified one of the firms as U.S. based.

The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Syria and Saudi Arabia were being investigated as possible buyer nations, beyond Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea — the countries known to have been in contact with Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan (search) and members of his procurement network.

But the diplomat, who is familiar with the Vienna-based IAEA (search) told the AP that "there has been no proof" that would warrant the reporting of Syria and Saudi Arabia to the IAEA's board of governors.

In separate comments, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (search) avoided specifics on the locations of the firms supplying the nuclear black market beyond saying there were "over 20 countries, some of them in North America."

The diplomat said at least one of them was in the United States. He declined to elaborate. But he said what is known about that company sheds new light on the activities of the network, known up to now for primarily supplying technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran as part of the process allowing them to make enriched uranium that can be used either to generate electricity or make weapons.