Venezuela Seeking Uranium With Iran’s Help

Saturday, September 26, 2009
Associated Press/

CARACAS, Venezuela — Iran is helping Venezuela to detect uranium deposits and initial evaluations suggest reserves are significant, the South American government said Friday — the same day world leaders criticized the Islamic republic of secretly building a uranium-enrichment plant that could be used to make an atomic bomb.

Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz said Iran has been assisting Venezuela with geophysical survey flights and geochemical analysis of the deposits, and that evaluations “indicate the existence of uranium in western parts of the country and in Santa Elena de Uairen,” in southeastern Bolivar state.

“We could have important reserves of uranium,” Sanz told reporters upon arrival on Venezuela’s Margarita Island for a weekend Africa-South America summit. He added that efforts to certify the reserves could begin within the next three years.

The announcement came as revelations that Iran has secretly been building a uranium-enrichment plant provoke concerns among countries including the U.S., Russia, France, Britain, Germany and China…

…Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington said that regardless of whether the uranium exploration efforts lead to nuclear cooperation, they are going to cause “a serious problem in the relationship” between Caracas and Washington.

Chavez’s government has “clearly announced they’re sort of beginning down this road,” Shifter said. “It’s going to be very difficult for the U.S. to really pursue any cooperation with Caracas on other issues because this is going to top everything else.”

Chavez’s project remains in its planning stages and still faces a host of practical hurdles, likely requiring billions of dollars, as well as technology and expertise that Venezuela lacks. Russia has offered to help bridge that gap, and Chavez has announced that the two countries have created an atomic energy commission…

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