Academic cold war sets in after sanctions on 'missile aid' to Iran

January 29, 1999

Sanctions imposed by the Americans against three top Russian technical universities, following claims that they were helping Iran build missiles and nuclear weapons, have provoked fears that years of international cooperation could be put at risk.

Professors at Russia's top chemistry institute, Mendeleyev University in Moscow, say links with American colleges, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bowling Green State University and the University of California, Berkeley, could be severely damaged if US national security adviser Sandy Berger's threatened economic sanctions bite.

Economic sanctions were announced after Mr Berger accused Mendeleyev, Moscow Aviation Institute and the Institute of Power Technology's scientific research and design arm, NIKIET, of providing Iran with sensitive missile or nuclear assistance.

The Russian foreign ministry protested that the American action was groundless and officials promised to raise the matter with US secretary of state Madeleine Albright during a planned visit to Moscow last week.

University rectors and professors at the institutions have been left in the dark over the reasons for the American move. The Iranian embassy in Moscow said Tehran had no official links with the universities named by Mr Berger.

Pavel Sarkisov, rector of Mendeleyev University said: "Mendeleyev has absolutely no contacts with Iranian organisations or private citizens."

He is worried that its annual US student exchange programme, involving 60 students, could be threatened.

"We hope other countries will not follow America's example. I don't believe that because of one American fool all other people will act like fools as well," he said.

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