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CIA's new centre will combat WMDs

The CIA is opening a counter-proliferation centre to combat the spread of dangerous weapons and technology.

CIA Director Leon Panetta said that the new unit would place CIA operators side by side with the agency's analysts "to confront the threat of weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical and biological."

The centre would focus on the collaboration between the agency's analysts and operators - a close working relationship that CIA spokesman George Little said had yielded intelligence successes.

Little cited their work in last year's revelation of the discovery of the Syrian covert nuclear reactor and Iran's undeclared uranium enrichment facility near Qom.

Paul Brannan, a senior analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security, said another CIA success was the slowing down of Iran's nuclear centrifuge operations at Natanz. The agency, he said, sneaked "faulty parts into Iran's nuclear supply chain."

The CIA's new centre comes into effect just as Iran's Bushehr power plant is stocked with fuel rods provided by Russia.

Uranium fuel will be loaded into the Bushehr reactor on Saturday, beginning a process that will last about a month and end with the reactor sending electricity to Iranian cities, Russian and Iranian officials said.

Brannan said the Bushehr site is not a proliferation threat since Iran does not have the ability to reprocess the spent fuel into nuclear weapons-grade material.

But that site will be watched closely not only by the CIA but by other elements of the intelligence community. The overall effort is led by the National Counter-proliferation Centre, which is under the Office of the Intelligence Director.

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