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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Turkish police seize smuggled uranium
Captured weapons-grade uranium displayed at the paramilitary police headquarters in Sanliurfa
The uranium is now displayed at police headquarters

Turkish police say they have seized 100 grams of weapons grade uranium, which had been smuggled into the country from Eastern Europe.

At first officers announced gave the quantity as 15 kilograms (34.5 pounds) but later explained that this included the weight of a lead container.

Two men have been arrested for questioning in the south of the country, close to the Syrian border.

According to the Turkish state news agency, the uranium was being transported in a taxi, concealed beneath the seats.

The taxi was intercepted near the south-west town of Sanliurfa, after police received a tip-off.

Smuggling route

It is not yet clear where the uranium, estimated to be worth $5m on the black market, was being taken, but it is unlikely there would have been a market for it within Turkey.

The Turkish media have been speculating that the alleged smugglers, both Turks, may have planned to take the weapons grade material through Syria and on into Iraq.

The seizure is the biggest of its kind in recent years.

Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Turkey has been a transit route for smuggled nuclear materials, many of which have found their way onto the black market in Istanbul.

Last year two men were arrested in the city after trying to sell a kilo of uranium wrapped in newspaper to undercover police agents.

While the Turkish authorities will welcome this latest seizure, they will be uneasy about the international focus on Turkey as a smuggling route for such dangerous materials.

See also:

10 Sep 02 | Middle East
07 Dec 01 | Europe
05 Jun 02 | Europe
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