Germany takes nuclear case to Russia

August 21, 1994|By New York Times News Service

MOSCOW -- Senior German experts presented evidence to Russian officials here yesterday to support their contention that nuclear materials seized in Germany were produced in the former Soviet Union.

In Bonn, German Finance Minister Theo Waigel told a German newspaper that future financial aid to Russia would be linked to cooperation in stopping nuclear smuggling. "I expect other nations to take the same stand," Mr. Waigel was quoted as saying by Bild am Sonntag.

After three seizures of highly enriched nuclear material in the past four months, including a cache of 10.5 ounces of plutonium 239 in Munich last week, the German delegation was sent here to present their evidence on the source of the material and discuss ways to prevent smuggling.

Russian officials have denied that any weapons-grade nuclear material is missing from Russian military stocks; German officials have said that some of the material is from Russian nuclear laboratories linked to military weapons production.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl's intelligence coordinator, Bernd Schmidbauer, and the heads of Germany's external and domestic intelligence agencies met here with Sergei Stepashin, head of the Russian Federal Counterintelligence Service, the domestic arm of the former KGB, and with scientists from the Russian ministry of atomic energy.

The German delegation presented some of the materials seized as well as the results of laboratory tests aimed at determining the source, Russian participants told the semi-official news agency Itar-Tass.

Russian officials seemed satisfied with the talks, which they described as "businesslike." Tass quoted Mr. Stepashin's spokesman, Alexander Mikhailov, as saying, "The meeting was very different from the accusatory tone adopted by the Western mass media on this topic."

After Russian scientists study the German evidence "in detail," Mr. Mikhailov said, the two sides can move to "operational implementation" of ideas on how to prevent smuggling from Russia.

Still, the intelligence spokesman cast doubt on the Germans' findings. He told Interfax that Russian experts who conducted a spectral analysis of the plutonium seized in Munich said that "this kind of nuclear raw material is not produced in Russia."

The meetings between the two sides will continue today.

The seizures have raised fears in Germany and elsewhere over the danger that terrorists or nonnuclear nations are buying bomb-grade nuclear material cheaply. The Russian reaction has been defensive, ranging from flat denials that any material is missing to speculation about Germany's motives in raising such doubts about Russia.

Yesterday the Germans announced that the consignment seized this month in Munich included about two pounds of lithium-6, a nonradioactive material used to enhance bomb yields.

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