LONDON - Iran is secretly trying to obtain technology and expertise needed to build a nuclear weapon, according to a leaked intelligence report that threatens to deepen a rift with the West over its nuclear programme.
Tehran's nuclear purchasing plans stretch from Europe to North Korea and the former Soviet states, Britain's Guardian newspaper said, citing a report by an unnamed European intelligence agency.
The 55-page report, dated July 1, 2005, draws on material gathered by British, French, German and Belgian agencies and has been used to brief European Government ministers, the newspaper said.
The leaked report comes as Iran and the West remain locked in a standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme.
The United States and European Union fear Iran's nuclear power programme is a cover for making nuclear weapons. Iran says it needs the technology to generate electricity.
The leaked intelligence report claims Iran has an advanced programme designed to acquire nuclear expertise, training and equipment.
It also says Syria, Pakistan and North Korea are part of a global black market in illicit weapons parts.
The document says Iran has built a web of front companies, middlemen and academics whose job is to find the information and materials needed for nuclear, biological and chemical arsenals, according to the Guardian.
"In addition to sensitive goods, Iran continues intensively to seek the technology and know-how for military applications of all kinds," the newspaper quoted from the report.
According to the Guardian, the document details Tehran's attempts to build a missile capable of reaching Israel and southern Europe.
Iranian scientists are building wind tunnels, navigation technology and acquiring calibration devices needed for advanced missiles.
It concludes that Syria and Pakistan have also been buying technology and chemicals needed to develop rocket programmes and to enrich uranium. The report concludes that scientists in Tehran are shopping for parts for a new ballistic missile with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily".
The report's aim is to warn European Union companies from doing business with the front companies. The report does not name Western firms or academics believed to have worked with Iran, North Korea, Syria or Pakistan.
Yesterday, Iran said it would resume atomic fuel research and development next week. That could lead to renewed calls for the case to be referred to the UN Security Council, where Iran could face political or economic sanctions.