Dec 1 (Reuters) - The missile and nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea rely heavily on smuggled supplies and Russian technology is among the equipment both nations target, leaked U.S. diplomatic cables reported Russian officials as saying.
Cables published by the WikiLeaks website quote a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer as adding at a Washington meeting that U.S.-Russian joint counter-proliferation operations would ensure Iran and North Korea "boil in their own oil".
The reported comments are likely to bolster a growing belief that North Korea tapped several foreign sources over many years for components for its expanded nuclear programme, which includes a uranium enrichment plant.
They are also likely to underscore suspicions that the dismantling of a trafficking network run by the Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan some seven years ago had not ended the black market in the technology needed for such plants.
The cables also show a divergence of views on the missile programmes of Iran and North Korea: Unlike their American counterparts Russian officials do not believe they constitute a threat that requires the deployment of missile defences.
This difference of opinion is central to a debate between Russia and Western powers about U.S. plans for a missile shield, which have been a big irritant in U.S.-Russian ties since the Cold War. The plans are aimed to protect Europe and North America from long-range missiles fired from the Middle East.
Russian officials also say they were worried that Islamist militants might obtain nuclear material in Pakistan and could one day seize power in the country.
A spokesman for Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) declined to comment.
The comments were made at a Feb. 24, 2010, meeting in Washington of the two nations' Joint Threat Assessment group, a body set up by President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in 2009 to boost cooperation on missile defence.
The Russian side was led by Vladimir Nazarov, Deputy Secretary of the Russian National Security Council, and the U.S. side by Vann H. Van Diepen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation.
RUSSIAN EQUIPMENT TARGETED
Anatoliy Raikevich, described as FSB First Deputy Department Director, said both Iran and North Korea appeared to depend heavily on illegally obtaining equipment and technology from abroad for missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) work.
The FSB had information that Iran and North Korea both had programmes to acquire Russian technology: One of the basic tasks of the FSB was to prevent them from acquiring WMD-related production technology in Russia, he said.
The FSB monitored and took measures to prevent WMD technology exports. This included criminal investigations of attempts to export contraband and items on the prohibited list.
These efforts had significantly reduced the achievements of Iranian security services in this area. However, the Iranians continued to try to use Russian territory for transits and re-exports of such materials, he was reported as saying.
WHAT IRAN WANTS
The FSB determines that Iran seeks to get equipment such as measuring devices, high precision amplifiers, pressure indicators, various composite materials and technology to create new missile engines from Russia and sources in Western Europe.
IRANIAN "FAKE" COMPANIES
A key Iranian tactic was the company-to-company approach, whereby fake companies run by the Iranian security service are used to procure Russian goods. The FSB has set up sting companies to uncover Iranian activities. In the past two years, the FSB has cut off a good deal of the exports of such technology, the cables reported him as saying.
RUSSIA-U.S. JOINT OPS
Raikevich said Russia and U.S. security services had now "moved from information exchanges to operational activities".
Van Diepen said he would pass on to U.S. security services the FSB's interest in continued cooperation. The U.S. would want to work with Russia in those channels and in diplomatic channels as the need arose to address specific shipments of concern.
"Raikevich replied that discussing these issues with the U.S. will help Iran and North Korea to 'boil in their own oil'," the cable reported.
IRANIAN AND NORTH KOREAN MISSILES
Russian officials continue to believe "the missile programs of Iran and the DPRK (North Korea) are not sufficiently developed, and their intentions to use missiles against the U.S. or Russia are nonexistent, thus not constituting a 'threat' requiring the deployment of missile defences", the cable said.
Points made in a Russian presentation:
* Iran is developing solid propellent Medium Range Ballistic Missiles and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and a two-stage (2,000km) solid propellant missile.
* Iran might be able to begin a programme for ballistic missiles of the 3,000-5,000 km range after 2015 but Russia sees no evidence of this yet.
* It is unclear whether North Korea could make a nuclear warhead of the size and weight needed to be carried on a ballistic missile.
* North Korea has an arsenal of outdated missiles with ranges no greater than 1,300 km.
* North Korean development of long-range ballistic missiles based on a Space Launched Vehicle is possible but will take years to perfect.
* Russia does not think the so-called BM-25 missile exists, despite U.S. assertions Iran has obtained several of them from North Korea, and noted there had been no tests of such a missile in Iran. The weapon is said to have a range of 2,400-4,000 km.
Yuriy Korolev, an expert from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was reported as saying that Russia assessed that Islamists were not only seeking power in Pakistan but were also trying to get their hands on nuclear materials.
Russia was aware that Pakistani authorities, with help from the United States, had created a well-structured system of security for protecting nuclear facilities.
But there were 120,000-130,000 people directly involved in Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes, working in these facilities and protecting them.
Regardless of the clearance process, there was no way to guarantee that all are 100 percent loyal and reliable.
Nazarov said Russia would like to put its concern on the record, and particularly with regard to the possibility of Islamists coming to power in Pakistan.
Van Diepen urged Nazarov to raise his concerns with U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.
Pakistan has routinely dismissed international concerns about the security of its nuclear installations and material.