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Subject U.S., Georgian Officials Last Summer Arrested Man Selling Bomb-Grade Uranium
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Original Message U.S., Georgian Officials Last Summer Arrested Man Selling Bomb-Grade Uranium

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

AP


WASHINGTON Republic of Georgia authorities, aided by the CIA, set up a sting operation last summer that led to the arrest of Russian man who tried to sell a small amount of nuclear-bomb grade uranium in a plastic bag in his jacket pocket, U.S. and Georgian officials said.

The operation, which neither government has publicized, represents one of the most serious cases of smuggling of nuclear material in recent years, according to analysts and officials.

The arrest underscored concerns about the possibility of terrorists acquiring nuclear bomb-making material on the black market, although there was no suggestion that the case was terrorist-related.

"Given the serious consequences of the detonation of an improvised nuclear explosive device, even small numbers of incidents involving HEU (highly enriched uranium) or plutonium are of very high concern," said Melissa Fleming of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.

Details of the investigation, which also involved the FBI and Energy Department, were provided to The Associated Press by U.S. officials and Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili.

Authorities say they do not know how the man acquired the nuclear material or if his claims of access to much larger quantities were true. He and three Georgian accomplices are in Georgian custody and not cooperating with investigators.

Georgian attempts to trace the nuclear material since the arrest and confirm whether the man indeed had access to larger quantities have foundered from a lack of cooperation from Russia.

Merabishvili said that he was revealing the story out of frustration with Russia's response and the need to illustrate the dangers of a breakdown in security cooperation in the region.

A message left with the press office of the Russian Embassy was not returned. A duty officer at the Russian Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press that there was no one authorized to comment on Wednesday night.
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