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CIA tip over nuclear export ‘ignored’

Published on 31/01/2006

31 January 2006

BRUSSELS — The federal security service ignored a tip from the US intelligence service CIA about the export of a machine to Iran that could be used for nuclear weapons production, it was claimed on Tuesday.

The report from the Committee I — which supervises Belgium’s intelligence services — also indicated on Tuesday that Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx was misinformed about the export.

The case revolves around an isostatic press exported in November 2004 to Iran by the Temse-based firm Epsi.

The press is listed under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but it was exported to Iran despite a request from the CIA for Belgian authorities to intervene.

One of the tasks of the Belgian security service VS (SE in French) is to prevent the export of nuclear technology and know-how. However, it ignored the advice issued by the CIA in both July and October 2004.

In the latter tip, the CIA also alerted Belgian customs officials about the looming export. The customs authority then informed officials at the five posts via which Epsi normally exports its products.

However, the export eventually took place via a different customs post on 3 November 2004, in what the Committee I said was a “noteworthy” incident. It subsequently launched an investigation.

In response to various media reports, Minister Onkelinx was questioned about the matter in April 2005 and gave an answer based on information provided to her by the VS-SE.

However, the security service had led the Socialist PS minister to believe that it knew nothing of the controversial export.

Meanwhile, the committee’s report also raised concerns about the resistance put up by the VS-SE to a government request to gather information about the incident.

The conclusion of the report — which was lodged in the Senate on Tuesday — was harsh, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported.

“Given the fact the Safety of the State [VS-SE] incorrectly informed the competent authorities and the supervisory minister, this service is indisputably in breach of carrying out its task concerning the delivery of information to authorities,” the report said.

“In this case, the service has given evidence of a lack of efficiency.”
Security service chief Koen Dassen resigned on Monday night on the eve of the report’s publication. However, he will remain in his position until a replacement can be found.
According to a member of the commission who presented the report to the Senate, Hugo Vandenberghe, Dassen’s resignation was unavoidable. “Otherwise it would have been demanded in Parliament,” he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news