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Germany sponsors program promoting trade with Iran
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
03/01/2012
Federal Ministry of Research and Education funds university program promoting trade in construction sector.
 
BERLIN – A technical university in the German capital, which receives public funds from The Federal Ministry of Research and Education for joint projects with Iran, last week helped the Iranian Embassy promote trade between the two countries in the construction sector.

According to an invitation to the Iranian event, which was obtained by the Post, Berlin’s Technical University (TU) sent an email last Tuesday titled “Company Congress” to students and other potential parties.

Yousef Chappi, the head of Iran’s economic department at the embassy, wrote on the invitation that the purpose of the event is “to make German firms in the construction sector aware of the present potential with new technology and the basis for cooperation and the signing of joint contracts.”

The invitation-only event, which took place last Wednesday, was shrouded in secrecy and required a pre-registration. Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, a leading expert on German-Iranian relations, translated a Persian- language report in the Islamic Republic News Agency, which cited a comment after the event from Iran’s Ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, about the construction trade conference in Berlin.

Germany is Iran’s most important European trading partner, with bilateral commerce hovering around an annual 4 billion euros. The construction trade event raises questions about violations of EU and UN sanctions because the merchandise and work could possibly be used to develop nuclear underground and above-ground facilities. Iran’s government frequently uses Western “dual-use” technology for both military and civilian purposes.

Ferdinand Knauss, a spokesman for the ministry that funds the Technical University program with Iran, wrote to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, stressing that “the security of Israel is through the project ‘Young Cities – Developing Energy-Efficient Urban Fabric in the Tehran-Karaj Region’ in no way affected. A use of the results for military purposes [dual-use] is ruled out, especially in connection with atomic weapons.”

He referred to a comment about TU using its email list to promote German- Iranian trade.

According to Knauss, the project Young Cities – Developing Energy-Efficient Urban Fabric in the Tehran-Karaj Region is funded within the framework of the research project Future Megacities. He noted that in the main phase the German government has contributed 6,286,777 euros to the project for the period from January 7, 2008, to June 30, 2013.

He declined to comment on whether the work with Iran’s regime would continue.

A Federal Ministry of Research and Education pamphlet states the TU German- Iranian project “aims at achieving substantial improvements in energy efficiency through a change from linear mass and energy flows to an interlinked urban system of urban form, technical infrastructure and object planning, accompanied by assessment and management actions.”

Dr. Kazem Moussavi, an Iranian dissident in Germany and expert in the field of environmental protection, told the Post on Wednesday that Iran uses the TU program “to continue its work on its nuclear program” because German-Iranian cooperation programs “create legitimacy for Iran’s regime and helps bring it out of isolation.”

He called on Germany’s research ministry to end its financial support for the Iranian- German program at TU.

Moussavi added that program could be viewed as way to circumvent sanctions against Iran. Asked about the use of the program for dual-use goals, he said the nature of the work could lend itself to the technology being applied for a military dimension.

Cornelia Saalmann, an architect and member of the Young Cities project, sent the Iranian invitation by email to the students and faculty. In a telephone interview with the Post on Tuesday, she said that the event at Iran’s embassy was not a TU sponsored event. She said that “some Iranian” students from the TU program attended, but could not specifically say how many attendees from TU appeared. She sought to inform the members of the project about the conference.

She stressed in her email that attending is “in the interests of our projects and the participation of one or more project members.”

Saalmann said the aim of TU project is “solar energy for residential family buildings.” Asked about the presence of Iran’s Ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar at the event and his involvement in a massacre of Iranian Kurds during his tenure (1980-1985) as governor of the provinces Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan, Saalmann she was not aware of the massacre alleged by Kurdish human rights activists. Saalmann said the aim of the TU project is “sun energy for residential family buildings.”

According to the IRNA report, Iran’s ambassador denied that his country is working on a nuclear weapons device.

Dr. Wahied Wahdat-Hagh, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy, told the Post that Iran’s ambassador “does not talk about the Islamic dictator, whom he represents and who represses Iranians and persecutes religious minorities like the Baha’i.”

Wahdat-Hagh, who has written extensively about human-rights violations in Iran and is the author of a new book, The Islamist Totalitarianism, said Iran’s regime tramples over the rights of women and ethnic minorities.

Wahdat-Hagh said “the Iranian ambassador frequently begs Germany to invest in Iran. He begs that Germany and Iran remain friends. It is macabre how the representatives of a dictator on the one hand show weakness because it is clear that sanctions are affecting Iran and on the other hand how German professors are clearly not interested in human rights and democracy. That is really macabre.”
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