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Monday, September 7, 1998 Published at 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK

World: Europe

Turkish police arrest uranium smugglers

There are concerns over security at Russian nuclear facilities

Police in Turkey say they have seized more than four kilograms of unprocessed uranium and six grams of plutonium smuggled from the former Soviet Union.

Eight people have been arrested in connection with the seizure.

Four were from the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and the other four were Turkish nationals.

Some reports say one of the suspects may have been a colonel with the Kazak army.

The police said the group had sought to sell the material, which could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons, to undercover officers for $1 m.

The materials seized have been taken to Turkey's Atomic Research Institute in Istanbul to be examined further.

According to US government estimates it takes about 25 kilograms of processed, weapons-grade uranium and eight kilograms of plutonium to make a bomb.

Although other estimates say a crude bomb could be made with 16 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and Russia's recent economic troubles has caused concern about security at nuclear facilities in the former Soviet republics.

The United States in particular has voiced concern over the possible spreading of the former Soviet Union's nuclear capabilities to what it calls the "rogue states".

But Russian officials insist weapons-grade material has never been stolen or sold.

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