Report: Iran Leads Pack of Countries Looking to Acquire Weapons

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Iran maintains one of the world's most active programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles to deliver them, a CIA report says.

Last year, Iran sought help from Russia, China, North Korea and countries in Western Europe, says the report, which the CIA delivered to Congress on Friday.

"Tehran is attempting to develop a domestic capability to produce various types of weapons ... and their delivery systems," the CIA says.

The report, issued every six months, tracks several countries' efforts to obtain nuclear, chemical, biological and high-tech conventional weapons. Friday's report covers proliferation of those weapons during the second half of 2000.

During that time, Russia continued to help Iran build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor at Bushehr. The assistance gives Iran more nuclear know-how, the report says.

"The expertise and technology gained, along with the commercial channels and contacts established – particularly through the Bushehr nuclear power plant project – could be used to advance Iran's nuclear weapons research and development program," it says.

Iran already has stocks of chemical weapons and was seeking more, as well as the ability to make their own, from "entities in Russia and China," the report says. The "entities" are unidentified.

The country may also have a few biological weapons, and it sought "dual-use" biological technology from Russia and Western Europe. Such technology may have benign purposes but could also be used in weapons.

The report describes the efforts of other countries to obtain weapons of mass destruction. Iraq may again be producing biological warfare agents, the report says, although confirming this is difficult without United Nations weapons inspectors.

Iraq was also working on an unmanned drone, called the L-29, that could deliver biological or chemical weapons, it says. Concerns about a rejuvenated Iraqi nuclear program have increased since Iraq President Saddam Hussein in September 2000 "exhorted his 'nuclear mujahidin' to 'defeat the enemy,"' the report says.

Libya, Syria and Sudan also worked to obtain the ability to produce weapons of mass destruction, the report says. India and Pakistan continued to upgrade their ballistic missiles, enabling them to deliver their nuclear weapons at greater distances. Russia and some Western European nations helped India; China aided Pakistan.

India is looking to buy, lease or build fighter jets, tanks, bombers, airborne radar, a nuclear-powered attack submarine and an aircraft carrier, the report says.