Western countries including Britain, the US, Germany and France have started intense diplomatic efforts to dissuade major uranium producers from selling to Iran.
Iran acquired its stock of the yellow cake uranium in the 1970s from South Africa under its original civil nuclear power programme. It is now believed that this stock pile has run out and even though Iran is developing its own uranium mines, it does not have enough to support a sustained nuclear programme.
Kazakhstan, with 15% of the world’s deposits is one of the world’s biggest producers. Shortly before Christmas the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent confidential requests to its diplomats in Kazakhstan to lobby the government and urge producers to ignore any possible approaches. Similar requests went to diplomats in Uzbekistan and Brazil.
There is no direct evidence that Iran has actively sought to buy uranium from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan or Brazil, however, intelligence sources in the west believe this is a definite threat. This move is unlikely to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb but would go some way in blunting its efforts and help contain this threat.