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Cablegate: Embassy Astana

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTA #2273/01 3650744
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 310744Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7141
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 0549
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW IMMEDIATE 1617
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS IMMEDIATE 0244
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 2379
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA IMMEDIATE 0098
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 2662

S E C R E T ASTANA 002273

SIPDIS

STATE FOR ISN, SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2029 TAGS: PGOV PREL PARM MNUC KNNP IR JA KZ

REF: A. ASTANA 2257 B. SECSTATE 131723 C. ASTANA 2158

Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland: 1.4 (B), (D)

1. (S) SUMMARY: The government of Kazakhstan publicly and privately denied allegations of negotiations between Iran and KazAtomProm for the purchase of yellowcake uranium (refs A-B). During a December 31 meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Kairat Umarov told the Ambassador that an extensive interagency investigation found no evidence of discussions with, or even a proposal from, Iran. He stressed Kazakhstans strong commitment to non-proliferation and stringent export-control regime. Umarov requested further details to assist the investigation and a public statement of support from the United States (see suggestion in para 13). Umarov passed the Ambassador the Foreign Ministrys December 30 press release and a non-paper (see paragraphs 11-12). END SUMMARY.

"NO STONE UNTURNED"

2. (S) In response to the Ambassadors December 30 demarche regarding possible negotiations between a Kazakhstani subsidiary of KazAtomProm (KAP) and Iran for the sale of a large quantity of yellowcake uranium, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Kairat Umarov requested an urgent December 31 meeting with the Ambassador. Umarov first emphasized the Kazakhstani governments serious and immediate response to the allegations, stating, "All agencies have worked together to leave no stone unturned." He then passed the Ambassador the Foreign Ministrys December 30 press release and a non-paper on the governments investigation (see paragraphs 11-12). Summarizing the non-paper, he thanked the U.S. government for providing information about the allegations and underlined the Kazakhstani governments strong commitment to non-proliferation. Umarov further reaffirmed support for the prevention of uranium exports to Iran, in accordance with UNSCR 1737. Highlighting U.S. assistance, he stressed Kazakhstans strong export-control regime, which precludes the possibility of a uranium shipment to Iran. Umarov asserted, "There are no negotiations on an uranium shipment. We have quickly checked all questions and are taking additional measures, but there are no leads to confirm the intention to transfer uranium." Umarov concluded by requesting "documents and materials, with names and data, on those conducting the negotiations."

NO CONTRACTS, NO CONTACT, AND NO NEGOTIATIONS

3. (S) Umarov then turned to his private report on the interagency investigation, which concluded that KAP has neither contracts nor contact with Iran on any possible uranium shipment. Furthermore, he asserted, "No one has received a proposal from Iran, and a check of all potential mediators has not shown any evidence of a request from Iran." Turning to Baiken-U, owned jointly by KAP and Energy Asia Limited, a consortium of Japanese power companies, Umarov underlined its 95% Japanese ownership. "Even with that, KazAtomProm has no information that negotiations are in process," he stated.

ONE-THIRD OF KAZAKHSTANS URANIUM PRODUCTION

4. (S) To emphasize the improbability of the sale, Umarov then recited detailed information on Baiken-Us limited mining operations and small stock of unprocessed uranium ore -- 70 tons. The volume of yellowcake under alleged negotiations, he continued, equals one-third of all Kazakhstans production. "To ship that amount unaccounted is crazy," he argued. Highlighting the regular inventory of stockpiles by the competent Kazakhstani agencies, he revealed, "They have checked half, nothing is missing, and no documents have been distorted."

MANDATORY END-USE CERTIFICATES

5. (S) About transportation, Umarov told the Ambassador that all uranium exports occur exclusively by railway, and that no shipments have ever passed through Kazakhstani sea ports [on the Caspian Sea]. Kazakhstans multi-layered, strict export controls would ensure immediate identification of any shipment of any amount of uranium, he argued. Furthermore, he said, "No Kazakhstani company has requested a license to export uranium to Iran, and we never ship uranium to a non-nuclear power without an end-use certificate."

REPUTATION AT STAKE

6. (S) "This investigation led to our statement, and now we have big questions for you and Washington. Information is very important
because Kazakhstans reputation has been put at stake," he asserted. "If you consider us a strategic partner, as you say, you must share information. We are working for one and the same goals, and we have always been helpful on Iran. The appearance of this article and the mention of intelligence leads to questions about trust." Umarov then underlined the governments "disappointment" that the State Departments statement (drawn from press guidance) did not more firmly support Kazakhstan and underline Kazakhstans staunch support for non-proliferation. "Now, we are in a damage-control situation," he concluded with real chagrin.

INCIDENT ORCHESTRATED?

7. (S) Umarov relayed the Kazakhstani governments request to the IAEA for the report. "The IAEA says that they do not have the report, which leads us to the conclusion that it was orchestrated." He then repeated his request for additional information in order to continue the investigation in greater detail. "As partners, we must work together constructively to stop activity confidentially. Our previous experiences have shown the effectiveness of this approach. You trusted us before with such sensitive projects as Operation Sapphire."

STRONGER, BROADER INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION WELCOMED

8. (S) After thanking the Ministry and government for its serious, speedy response, the Ambassador emphasized that the U.S. government is not accusing the Kazakhstani government of involvement in the alleged negotiations. He asserted that he met with the Foreign Minister in advance of the article, because the U.S. government sees Kazakhstan as a strong partner. The Ambassador mentioned the U.S. governments recognition and praise for Kazakhstans long history of positive cooperation, especially on non-proliferation. Recalling his meeting with the new head of the National Security Committee (KNB) (ref C), the Ambassador welcomed stronger, broader intelligence cooperation.

PUBLIC STATEMENT OF SUPPORT?

9. (S) Looking for a way to restore Kazakhstans image, Umarov concluded with a request that the U.S. government make a public statement of support, "We have strenuously worked on our non-proliferation reputation, and now it is being questioned, now the word has gone out. We would appreciate strong support from our partners." The Ambassador agreed to relay the request.

10. (S) In a private pull-aside, Umarov told the Ambassador that Kazakhstan has some degree of suspicion that a third nation (unnamed) might have fabricated the initial report and, for its own purposes, leaked it to the Associated Press.

11. (U) BEGIN DECEMBER 30 PRESS STATEMENT:

STATEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs categorically repudiates certain news media reports alleging Kazakhstans connection to a possible deal to supply uranium to Iran and considers them groundless insinuations damaging the reputation of our country.

As is known, Kazakhstan has voluntarily renounced the worlds fourth largest nuclear and missile arsenal, shut down the worlds second largest Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, and is one of the recognized leaders of the global process of disarmament and nonproliferation.

Kazakhstan is firmly committed to the principles of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and tough control over the turnover of dual use materials. As a non-nuclear weapon state, Kazakhstan has been unwaveringly committed and remains committed to the principles of the Treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, the UN Convention on physical protection of nuclear materials, as well as the principles and rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

All the operations with nuclear materials in Kazakhstan, including our cooperation regarding peaceful use of atomic energy with foreign countries, are subject to IAEA comprehensive safeguards.

In this connection, Kazakhstan expects the IAEA to give an appropriate assessment of the information being disseminated by the news media.

END STATEMENT.

12. (S) BEGIN INFORMAL EMBASSY TRANSLATION OF MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS NON-PAPER:

Thank you for providing the information on the attempts of Iranian company Nur Afzar Gostar (NAG) to purchase uranium ore from Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan unwaveringly fulfills its tight export-control obligations with respect to nuclear materials and is committed to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

We fully support your efforts to prevent the export of nuclear materials to the Islamic Republic of Iran, in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1737. Kazakhstans export-control system excludes any possibility of illegal deliveries of uranium products to that country. Kazakhstans government agencies and private companies are not conducting, nor have they ever conducted, official negotiations for the delivery of uranium ore to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Based on your inquiry, the government conducted a thorough investigation of the companies you identified and took additional steps to prevent the illegal transfer of purified uranium ore, including yellowcake. To date, no evidence of an illegal export of significant amounts of uranium ore have been found.

From our side, we request that you provide copies of materials containing further information on the companies and individuals engaged in the negotiations to transfer uranium ore from Kazakhstan.

END NON-PAPER.

13. (S) COMMENT: We know from other sources that Kazakhstans initial investigation was indeed swift and relatively thorough. Nonproliferation is one area where the United States and Kazakhstan have consistently and successfully cooperated for nearly two decades, and sensitive nonproliferation programs still continue. Given the very strong disappointment, almost chagrin, that Umarov expressed, we suggest it would not be remiss for the Department to issue a press statement (or for Embassy Astana to be authorized to issue one) that notes the government of Kazakhstans full cooperation in the investigation of this current allegation, as well as our long and successful partnership to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Please advise. END COMM

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