Chinese man extradited to US on nuclear smuggling charges

A general view shows the reactor building at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, 1200 kms south of Tehran, on August 20, 2010 (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Boston (AFP) - A Chinese man accused of smuggling "highly sensitive" parts for nuclear production to Iran was extradited to Boston on Friday where he will face federal charges.

Sihai Cheng, charged alongside an Iranian man and two Iranian businesses, allegedly exported pressure sensors to Iran that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons, a government statement said.

Cheng was arrested in February by British authorities and extradited to the United States. He is scheduled to appear in federal court next week.

US sanctions prohibit the export of specific items to Iran due to its nuclear program, which Western powers and Israel say aims to build weapons. Iran adamantly denies the charges.

According to the government indictment, Cheng supplied thousands of parts manufactured in the US to the company Eyvaz, identified by the European Council as an entity implicated in Iranian nuclear or ballistic missile activity.

The pressure sensor parts were illegally obtained from the Massachusetts-based MKS Instruments, the US government claims.

According to the indictment, Cheng would ship the transducers to Iran upon receiving them in China, with the help of Iranian Seyed Jamili.

The pressure sensors can be used in gas centrifuges to "convert natural uranium into a form that can be used for nuclear weapons," the indictment said.

Cheng faces a maximum of 35 years in prison.