While the U.S. and E.U. nations are scrambling to convince Iran to abandon its program of uranium enrichment and debating bringing the Islamic Republic before the U.N. Security Council, Tehran may be in the process of directly purchasing the plutonium it needs to make a bomb from North Korea, intelligence sources say.

As WorldNetDaily reported, North Korea made 30 pounds of plutonium last summer – during the six-party talks hosted by China to end their weapons program – by reprocessing 8,000 nuclear fuel rods. Beijing is currently working to restart a reactor capable of producing enough plutonium to manufacture 10 atomic bombs a year.

For the first time since the nuclear crisis began in 1994, reports the London Times, North Korea has sufficient fissile material to sell some to its ally while retaining enough for its own purposes. Recent reports of Iran offering North Korea oil for nuclear technology has U.S. intelligence experts concerned that a deal is being put together by the two nations for the “surplus” plutonium.

In 2004, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovered North Korea had sold 1.7 tons of uranium to Libya, demonstrating how difficult trade in nuclear weapons-related materials is to detect and stop.

While constructing a weapon from plutonium is more complicated, only 15 to 20 pounds of the material is needed to make each nuclear bomb – a relatively small amount of material to transport between the two countries. Already, Iran is believed to be sharing results from its missile tests with North Korea in exchange for nuclear technology and, according to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Iran is building a research reactor “optimal for the production of weapons-grade plutonium.”

Tehran sources say Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has established its own links with North Korea, bypassing standard diplomatic channels. “Whatever they’re up to, it’s probably done through the Revolutionary Guards,” said a western diplomat.

As WorldNetDaily reported, Iran’s new hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad placed Iran’s nuclear program under the control of militant commanders of the Revolutionary Guard shortly after taking office. Jalaleddin Namini Mianji, Iran’s ambassador to North Korea who was appointed by the previous “reformist” government, is reportedly being recalled and his successor can be expected to be someone who will facilitate whatever nuclear deals the two countries are making.

The U.S. is sufficiently concerned the evidence points to a pending plutonium sale it has mounted a diplomatic offensive through China and South Korea to convey the message that transferring plutonium between the two nations would cross a “political red line.”

Related stories:

North Korea working to restart nuke reactor

Tehran to Pyongyang: Trade oil for nuke help

Iran’s radicals in control of nuke program

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