However, Moscow insisted that the amount of uranium found on the suspect was not enough to determine the source.

"We would have preferred for this issue to be resolved by experts," Lavrov said. He said that "despite what Georgia says, experts from our FSB [security service] and Rosatom [nuclear energy service] met this man, who could say nothing coherent".

Unknown origin

"We told the Georgian side that last year," Lavrov said. "Moreover, we asked the US energy department to help us get a dose from the Georgian side that would be sufficient for spectoral analysis, which would allow us to determine the source of this uranium."

However, a document reportedly seen by the Reuters news agency indicates that the uranium found in Khintsagov’s pockets may have been obtained it in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk

"The attempt by Georgia to earn some political mileage from this case ... will provoke serious irritation"

Anton Khlopkov, Centre for Policy Studies, Moscow

The document, marked confidential, appeared to be a fax, dated May 2006, sent by the FSB to the Georgian interior ministry in response to a Georgian request for help in investigating the smuggling case.

The Georgian authorities say they have not established the origin of the uranium but the document indicated that the trail may lead to Siberia, home to many nuclear facilities and vast stockpiles of radioactive material.

Moscow scepticism

Khintsagov, who comes from the province of North Ossetia in southern Russia, tried to sell the uranium for a million dollars and was caught with it in a plastic bag in his pocket, Georgian officials said.

 

He was sentenced to eight years prison in June and three Georgian nationals were also arrested in the operation.

In Moscow, analysts and officials said they believed that Georgia's decision to go public with the incident a year after Khintsagov's arrest was a public relations ploy to discredit Russia.

Relations between the two country’s have been strained over the past year.

Anton Khlopkov, the deputy director of the Centre for Policy Studies in Moscow, said: "The attempt by Georgia to earn some political mileage from this case ... will provoke serious irritation."

Georgia's prime minister, Zurab Nogaideli, denied that there was any political motive behind Tbilisi's actions.

"This is a very complicated and dangerous issue and it needs co-operation between countries and first of all between Georgia and Russia," Nogaideli said on Friday.

"We expect co-operation with Russia and are not trying to make this issue political."