China and Iran in scramble for base material of nukes

China and Iran are scrambling for Zimbabwe's uranium deposits in a bid to bolster their sources of nuclear energy.

Tehran is accused by the US and its allies of clandestinely trying to build nuclear weapons to counter regional nuclear power, Israel.

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Informed mining executives this week said China was pushing hard to implement its joint-venture agreement with Zimbabwe to mine uranium.

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Iran was also determined to get Zimbabwe’s uranium deposits, they said.

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The state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and China Uranium Corporation last year entered into a uranium mining deal.

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However, this was thwarted by the British-owned Standard Chartered Bank in Harare, citing US and European Union sanctions against the local company involved in the deal.

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The project was going to be done through Afri-Sino Resources Ltd, a company jointly established by China Uranium Corporation, New On Investment and ZMDC.

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After the deal was blocked, the Chinese opted not to send capital to Harare but to open an offshore bank account in Beijing.

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A briefing by government to the Sunday Times this week showed that the ZMDC/CUC deal was going ahead.

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Zimbabwe prefers China to Iran due to fear of US military strikes and UN sanctions.

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“After the joint venture was stalled last year by Standard Chartered, ZMDC advised Chinese shareholders to open an offshore bank account, preferably in Beijing, to facilitate capital transfers. As the joint-venture partner, ZMDC said that was the only way they could beat the sanctions and continue with the deal,” a senior government official said.

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“So what is happening is that officials are tying up loose ends to ensure the deal goes ahead as initially planned.”

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This came amid revelations this week that Iran was also vigorously pursuing Zimbabwe’s uranium deposits.

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In a recent document titled, “Is Iran Looking to Africa to Secure Uranium Ore?”, Avi Jorisch, the founder of Red Cell Intelligence Group and former US Treasury policy adviser on terrorism and financial intelligence, said Iran had been exploring uranium mining opportunities in Zimbabwe.

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“According to intelligence reports recently leaked by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran is looking to a number of African countries in an effort to secure uranium, a key mineral in building nuclear weapons,” Jorisch says.

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“Iran has reportedly decided that Congo, Nigeria, Senegal and Zimbabwe are the countries with uranium that are most likely to do business with it. Iran appears to have targeted Zimbabwe as its most promising source of uranium,” he added.

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Jorisch says Zimbabwe has approximately 455000 tons of uranium at Kanyemba, a site north of Harare.

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He says the country is an attractive proposition for Iran because of President Robert Mugabe’s close ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Ahmadinejad visited Harare last year in April officially to open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. During the visit, Zimbabwe and Iran signed various “trade and co-operation agreements”.

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“In recent months, there have been reports that Iran has secured the mining rights for Zimbabwe’s uranium. Zimbabwe’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Didymus Mutasa, reportedly signed the agreement in Tehran last year.

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“In return for uranium, Harare is said to have secured oil and cash to help its economy,” Jorisch says.

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Jorisch says the US must keep tabs on Zimbabwe and Iran.

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“Going forward, policy makers around the world will need to be vigilant in tracking Iran’s efforts to secure uranium.” – TimesLive