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Illegal transport of uranium by US diplomats

The State Department Foreign Affairs Manual explicitly forbids radioactive substances from being sent in a diplomatic bag.

US diplomats broke laws by sending uranium on commercial flight, says leaked cable * Richard Lloyd Parry, Philip Pank : The Times * December 13, 2010 AMERICAN diplomats secretly sent uranium on a commercial airliner, in violation of US government rules about the abuse of the diplomatic bag system, and laws governing the air transportation of hazardous materials.

The metallic powder was sent from the US Embassy in Burma, according to a cable published by WikiLeaks.

The document, signed by a senior US official in Rangoon, states that Burmese authorities were unaware of the shipment.

Under international agreement, cargo sent in a “diplomatic pouch” cannot be opened, or even X-rayed, by host countries. But the shipment violated State Department and Federal Aviation Administration rules, that bans the transportation of most radioactive materials on passenger flights.

In June this year, the FAA fined two Indian companies $430,000 for transporting depleted uranium on British Airways flights from Mumbai to Boston in 2008.

Even on cargo flights, radioactive materials must be packaged, marked, declared and labelled according to strict regulations.

The US embassy in Rangoon refused to answer questions on the matter but, according to the cable signed by Larry Dinger, the charge d’affaires, the nature of the cargo was concealed from Burmese authorities.

“Embassy Rangoon assesses that the host nation is currently unaware,” Mr Dinger wrote. “Burmese authorities would likely seize any additional samples or stocks of the material if aware.”

The sample was obtained as part of embassy investigations into suspected nuclear activities by the regime, that have been a subject of speculation since 2002. Other cables recount reports of the junta’s alleged attempts to obtain nuclear technology from Russia and North Korea, which reportedly sent workers to excavate a vast secret military bunker in the Burmese jungle.

In September 2008, a Burmese man approached the embassy offering to sell it uranium-238.

“The subject brought with him a small bottle weighing 1.8 ounces (50g) and measuring 70mm long by 26mm in diameter, which was half-filled with a grey metallic powder,” the cable records.

“He claimed the material was uranium-238 in powder form. The subject claims to represent a small group that wants to sell uranium to the US.

“He estimates there are at least 2,000kg more that could be dug up from the site in Kayah State.”

The embassy sent the sample for analysis in the US. “The sample was wrapped in several layers and placed inside multiple containers, including glass, lead, and wooden boxes/crates,” Mr Dinger wrote.

The State Department Foreign Affairs Manual explicitly forbids radioactive substances from being sent in a diplomatic bag.

US diplomats broke laws by sending uranium on commercial flight, says leaked cable | The Australian

December 13, 2010 - Posted by | Burma, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, Wikileaks

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