Iran recently managed to obtain equipment critical to its uranium enrichment efforts, and which is banned by UN sanctions against the country, through a Chinese company, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

According to the report, the hardware – which included valves and vacuum gauges for enrichment centrifuges – was bought by an Iranian research firm which is linked to the country’s atomic energy organization. It was purchased from an intermediary representing a Chinese company - Zheijiang Ouhai Trade Corp.

According to the report, news of the purchase reached Western officials after an email detailing the sale was sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency. An investigation has been launched into the allegations.

The valves and gauges were actually produced by a French company, KD Valves-Descote, which has denied involvement in the sale and says it does not even know how the equipment reached the Chinese firm.

“We have never sold to China. Believe me, I wish we could," Jean-Pierre Richer, president of KD Valves, told the paper, explaining that his company did not have the necessary licenses.

Zheijiang itself would not respond to the paper’s requests for comment. The intermediary, a person named Vikas Kumar Talwar, could not be located. But US officials told the paper that his name had come up in the past in connection with Iranian efforts to buy nuclear equipment.

The sale, the paper stated, represented an ongoing effort by Teheran to obtain equipment through various Iranian companies connected to its nuclear efforts. US investigators say banned equipment has reached the Iranians in the past through countries such as China, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.

"What we see over and over is you have a core smuggling ring in Iran where some procurement entity within the conventional military establishment needs things, and they find companies or individuals in Iran to buy these things," former UN weapons inspector David Albright said.

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