Egypt was offered nuclear weapons, materials and expertise on the black market after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to a senior Egyptian diplomat.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak turned down the offer, but the incident raises new questions over what nuclear sales were made by the other states or groups in the chaos of the early 1990s in Russia and the former Soviet republics.
Egyptian Ambassador to the UN Maged Abdelaziz made the revelation to the US’ top negotiator on nuclear arms control, Rose Gottemoeller, in a conversation reported in a leaked US cable in May last year.
The subject came up in a discussion of the creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, a foreign policy priority for Cairo.
The US cable said: “Finally, in an apparent attempt to portray Egypt as a responsible member of the international community, Abdelaziz claimed that Egypt had been offered nuclear scientists, materials and even weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Egypt had refused all such offers. A/S [assistant -secretary of state] Gottemoeller asked him how he knew this to be true, to which Abdelaziz replied he was in Moscow at that time and had direct personal knowledge.”
Abdelaziz declined to comment on the cable and it is unclear from the text who made the offer.
However, other evidence points toward groups of former military officers and nuclear scientists suddenly facing loss of privileges and income.
Maria Rost Rublee, an expert on the history of Egypt’s nuclear program, said she was told by three well-informed sources — a former Egyptian diplomat, military officer and nuclear scientist — that “non-state actors” from an unnamed former Soviet republic had tried to sell fissile material and technology to Egypt.
“Mubarak refused. He was very cautious, even over nuclear energy, and canceled plans for a program after Chernobyl,” said Rublee, the author of Nonproliferation Norms — a study of why some nations choose the path of nuclear restraint, now teaching at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
She said the leaked US cable marks the first time an Egyptian official has claimed his government was offered actual nuclear warheads and the assistance of nuclear technicians.
Olli Heinonen, former head of the safeguards division at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said: “At the time of the Soviet collapse, there were lots of people with financial difficulties. Some guys were looking for ways of many money and set up companies, offering nuclear material, but these were individuals making the offers, not the states.”
Several kilograms of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium have been seized from smugglers in the intervening years.
Meanwhile, there have been occasional accounts of former Soviet weapons scientists hawking their expertise abroad.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has been trying to find out what a Russian-Ukrainian scientist who had carried out pioneering work on the Soviet nuclear bomb at Chelyabinsk in Siberia, was doing in Iran in the mid-1990s.
The scientist, now back in Moscow, is an expert in the implosion techniques necessary for rigging up a nuclear warheads.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do