"Iran is helping Venezuela to detect uranium deposits and initial evaluations suggest reserves are significant, the South American government said Friday - the same day world leaders criticized the Islamic republic of secretly building a uranium-enrichment plant that could be used to make an atomic bomb.
Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz said Iran has been assisting Venezuela with geophysical survey flights and geochemical analysis of the deposits, and that evaluations "indicate the existence of uranium in western parts of the country and in Santa Elena de Uairen," in southeastern Bolivar state.
"We could have important reserves of uranium," Sanz told reporters upon arrival on Venezuela's Margarita Island for a weekend Africa-South America summit. He added that efforts to certify the reserves could begin within the next three years.
The announcement came as revelations that Iran has secretly been building a uranium-enrichment plant provoke concerns among countries including the U.S., Russia, France, Britain, Germany and China.
On Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged Iran in a statement to prove it is not seeking to develop atomic weapons, saying the undeclared construction of an enrichment facility flies in the face of U.N. Security Council demands for Iran to stop uranium enrichment at its only declared facility.
Iran is under three sets of Security Council sanctions for refusing to freeze enrichment at what had been its single publicly known enrichment plant, which is being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said recently that U.S. officials also have "concerns" about a possible transfer of nuclear materials between Iran and Venezuela.
But analysts say Iran, which has significant uranium deposits, currently has no need to import uranium, although those deposits may not be enough to sustain its future enrichment goals."
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