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U.S. Helps Armenian Border Guards In Export Control Drive

By Emil Danielyan

The United States donated eight vehicles to the Armenian border guards on Monday as part of its ongoing efforts to help them prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction through Armenia.

The assistance is part of the U.S. government’s Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance Program (EXBS) implemented in 45 countries around the world.

“This is not the first border and customs grant we have undertaken, and it is certainly not the last,” the deputy chief of the U.S. mission in Yerevan, Anthony Godfrey, said in a statement. “We have a budget of $1.3 million for this year, which will go toward both equipment transfer and training.”

Armenia has been covered by the scheme since 2000. Its border guard and customs services have since been supplied with various U.S.-made equipment such as radio-communication systems, border sensors, metal detectors, cargo truck scales, and X-ray units. Three of the cars donated on Monday are so-called “specialized all-terrain vehicles” designed for off-road patrolling.

The assistance has also taken the form of personnel training. In addition, U.S. and Armenian officials meet regularly to discuss their efforts to thwart possible transfer of sensitive equipment and technology from Armenia to neighboring countries, notably Iran. The Islamic Republic has long been accused by Washington of illegally developing nuclear and biological weapons. The administration of President George W. Bush has stepped up pressure on Tehran in recent months and could eventually resort to military action.

Yerevan faced a major embarrassment in May 2002 when the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on an Armenian businessman who had allegedly sold biochemical equipment to an Iranian-linked company registered in the United Arab Emirates. The equipment was dismantled from a now defunct Armenian factory that used to grow special bacteria for the production of lysine, an amino acid added to animal fodder. Scientists say they could also generate other biochemical substances.

The affair prompted the Armenian government to tighten export controls on Armenia’s main border crossings. The U.S. embassy official indicated that Washington has since been satisfied with Yerevan’s cooperation with the U.S. drive to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

“Stopping the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons through proper border controls is very important to all countries, and we are glad to see that Armenia has made it a high priority,” he said.

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