By Atom Markarian
The chief of the Armenian customs, Armen Avetisian, said on Tuesday that his agency has tightened export controls on all border crossings since the imposition of U.S. sanctions against an Armenian company and businessman accused of transferring sensitive equipment to Iran.
Avetisian, who had earlier denied the U.S. charges, effectively admitted that the Charentsavan-based biochemical firm Lizin might have sold to Iran products that are included in international control lists that seek to curb exports of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Lizin and businessman Armen Sarkisian feature in the list of 12 Armenian, Chinese and Moldovan entities subjected to U.S. sanctions for allegedly helping Iran develop weapons of mass destruction. They were barred from doing business with the U.S. government or entering U.S. government programs or getting export licenses for certain goods in the next two years.
The sanctions against Lizin apparently result from last year’s sale of its technological equipment to a trading company registered in the United Arab Emirates. The Soviet-era facilities used special bacteria for the production of lysine, an amino acid added to animal fodder. Scientists say they could also generate other biochemical substances.
Avetisian revealed that the authorities did not block the deal because Lizin’s production lines were sold in separate parts that did not look like strategic products. He said this was the reason why a special government commission monitoring sensitive exports did not find anything suspicious.
“We have made things stricter recently,” Avetisian added. “We now apply to the government commission when we have the slightest suspicion that exported goods could have a dual use.”
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian has said previously that the U.S. had warned the Armenian government last year that products sold by Lizin could be used for civilian and military purposes. But he claimed that the government had no authority block deals made by private firms.