Report: Gore Kept Russian Deal Secret

Tuesday, October 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Al Gore kept Congress in the dark about details of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran after receiving a letter from then-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin urging him to keep the deal secret, The Washington Times reported.

The paper reported in Tuesday's editions that it has obtained a classified ``Dear Al'' letter in which the Russian official told Gore about Moscow's confidential nuclear deal with Iran and said it was ``not to be conveyed to third parties, including the U.S. Congress.''

The Times quoted sources on Capitol Hill as saying Gore withheld the information from key senators who normally would be told of such matters.

Disclosure of the letter, which the Times said was labeled ``secret,'' comes less than a week after The New York Times reported on a deal Gore reached with Chernomyrdin governing conventional arms sales to Iran.

The Washington paper said both arrangements were kept from Congress, although a spokesman for Gore's presidential campaign insisted members of Congress were briefed on the conventional arms deal.

Responding to the new development, Gore spokesman Jim Kennedy told The Washington Times: ``It's obvious that the motivation for this leak is political.''

He gave the paper a statement Monday evening saying the letter ``simply appears to be part of the overall United States effort to encourage the Russians to break off or limit their nuclear relationship with Iran.''

The Dec. 9, 1995, letter to Gore on Iranian nuclear cooperation states that the two leaders' discussions as part of a special commission had resulted in ``clarity and mutual understanding'' on the matter, The Washington Times said.

The letter added that there were ``no new trends'' in Moscow's sale of nuclear equipment to Iran since a 1992 agreement and that Russia and the United States would seek to prevent the ``undermining of the nuclear arms nonproliferation program,'' the paper said.

It said Chernomyrdin assured Gore that Moscow's program of building a nuclear reactor in Iran would be limited to training technicians in Russia and the delivery of ``nuclear fuel for the power plant for the years 2001 through 2011.''

``The information that we are passing on to you is not to be conveyed to third parties, including the U.S. Congress,'' the paper quoted the Russian letter as writing. ``Open information concerning our cooperation with Iran is obviously a different matter, and we do no(t) object to the constructive use of such information. I am counting on your understanding.''

The Times said a classified analysis accompanying the letter said Russian assistance ``if not terminated, can only lead to Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability'' and that ``such a development would be destabilizing not only for the already volatile Middle East, but would pose a threat to Russian and Western security interests.''

The Washington Times also quoted from another secret letter in which Secretary of State Madeleine Albright indicates that Russia was not living up to its promise — outlined in the earlier Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement — to halt conventional arms deliveries to the Iranians by last Dec. 31.

``Russia's unilateral decision to continue delivering arms to Iran beyond the Dec. 31 deadline will unnecessarily complicate our relationship,'' she wrote Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, according to the Times.