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Accused Proliferator May Try to Build Ballistic-Missile Parts

Cars move past a Shahab-3 ballistic missile which is displayed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at the Baharestan Square in Tehran.

Cars move past a Shahab-3 ballistic missile which is displayed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at the Baharestan Square in Tehran. // Vahid Salemi/AP File Photo

An alleged kingpin proliferator may be moving to build his own components for guiding ballistic missiles to their targets, British-based experts say.

Newly uncovered information suggests Chinese businessman Li Fangwei has obtained substantial stakes in graphite operations and other sensitive enterprises, possibly indicating an ambition to build fiber-optic gyroscopes, says a Monday report by Daniel Salisbury and Ian Stewart of King's College London.

Li has previously faced charges for attempting to supply Iran with the systems, described by the authors as "one of the most advanced guidance technologies with potential uses in missiles."

His new apparent steps may reflect an effort to "move up the proliferation value chain," the analysts wrote. "Any move by Li to manufacture such technology in light of other concerns about his activities must be viewed as a grave threat to international peace and security."

The United States has targeted a series of Li's firms over the last decade for allegedly supplying missile components to Iran, and last month offered up to $5 million for information leading to the Chinese national's arrest or conviction.

Washington's latest steps against Li prompted strong protests from Beijing, which threatened toretaliate by reining in its coordination with the United States on nonproliferation matters.

"Not since [Abdul Qadeer] Khan has a manufacturer of proliferation-sensitive technologies so brazenly and repeatedly sold their goods for use in prohibited programs," Salisbury and Stewart wrote, referencing a former Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear-weapon technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

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