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Bolivia denies supplying uranium to Iran

Associated Press / May 27, 2009
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LA PAZ, Bolivia - Bolivia denied supplying uranium to Iran for its nuclear program, saying yesterday that it has never produced the metallic element, a key ingredient for nuclear energy and weapons.

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela joined top Bolivian officials in dismissing the allegations after a secret Israeli government report accused both nations of providing Iran with uranium.

Bolivian presidential minister Juan Ramón Quintana called it nonsense and labeled Israel's intelligence agency a bunch of incompetent "clowns."

The Israeli Foreign Ministry document, obtained by the Associated Press Monday, cites previous Israeli intelligence assessments, saying that "there are reports that Venezuela supplies Iran with uranium for its nuclear program" and that "Bolivia also supplies uranium to Iran."

During a visit to Brazil, Chávez said it is one more in a list of accusations meant to tarnish his government, including that "we're a paradise for drug trafficking, that we protect terrorists."

"I saw in the press yesterday . . . a supposed official document of the Israeli government where it says Venezuela is supporting Iran in the construction of the atomic bomb, that we're sending uranium," Chávez said. Without elaborating, he added: "They accuse us of anything."

Mining minister Luis Alberto Echazú said Bolivia does not produce uranium, though he acknowledged that officials believe the country has untapped deposits.

"There isn't even a precise geological study of uranium deposits, and much less can there be talk of export" to another country, he said.