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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 14:03 GMT
Turkish police seize enriched uranium
Central Istanbul
Istanbul has become a hub of trafficking in illegal substances
Police in Turkey have detained two men who attempted to sell enriched uranium suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

A police official in Istanbul said the two men offered over a kilogram of uranium, wrapped in a newspaper, to undercover agents.

They were barely aware of what they were selling, they only knew it was a very expensive substance and wanted to make money

Turkish police official
The detentions came just a day after the US President George Bush said Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation was seeking to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons "to destabilise entire nations and regions".

A Turkish police official said the arrested men - an ambulance driver and his friend - were not aware of the uranium's real value and agreed to sell it for $750,000.

"They were barely aware of what they were selling. They only knew it was a very expensive substance and wanted to make money," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Russian connection

The men said they bought the substance from a Russian man several months ago.

It is believed that the uranium comes from one of the former Soviet republics.

The seizure in Istanbul took place as undercover agents arranged a final meeting with the two men, with whom they had been in contact for a month.

Turkish police said that examination of the substance established it was enriched uranium that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Trafficking in illegal substances has increased since the collapse of Soviet Union, and Istanbul has become the hub of the so-called 'suitcase' trade. In August, Turkish police arrested six people for selling nuclear material.

See also:

06 Nov 01 | Europe
Bush warns of nuclear terror
26 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Bin Laden's 'nuclear threat'
05 Nov 01 | UK Politics
European allies reaffirm war support
06 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN hits back over Afghan aid
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