Germany may have blocked Iran nuclear shipment

Customs arrested businessmen delivering nuke technology to Iran.

By
May 21, 2010 03:50
4 minute read.
germany terror threat elections 248.88

germany terror threat elections 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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BERLIN – Customs officials arrested German businessmen in a German airport recently on their way to deliver unlawful nuclear technology for the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

However, Rüdiger Hagen, a spokesman for the German customs control agency’s criminal division, told The Jerusalem Post there was “no ongoing investigation that can be attributed to” Bushehr, the city on the southwestern coast of Iran where a nuclear power plant is being built in cooperation with Russia.

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Reuters cited unnamed Western diplomats on Thursday as saying, “The arrests had infuriated Russia, which complained to members of the UN Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee.”

Ruslan Bakhtin, a spokesman for the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York, told the Post he had “no comment” on the media reports.

A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry also declined to comment on the alleged diplomatic row with Russia. She wrote in an e-mail to the Post that “on the issue of the supposed arrests, I refer you to the justice authorities of Hesse, where you may also ask the appropriate prosecutor.”

Dagmar Döring, a spokeswoman for the Hesse state Judicial Ministry, told the Post that “there is no process involving arrests.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday, a German firm sought “more than a month ago” to deliver dual-use parts, which can be used for both military and civilian purposes, for the Russian-built plant Bushehr.

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Export of the sophisticated equipment constitutes a violation of European Union restrictions on the transfer of dual-use technology to Iran.

The German engineering giant Siemens AG designed the Bushehr power plant in the 1970s but walked away from its contract with Teheran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Nuclear experts argue that helps to explain the Iranian procurement effort in Germany, because Bushehr requires German-based technology to operate.

The state-controlled Iranian Press TV reported on Thursday that Bushehr is slated to be up and running in August. According to Press TV, Sergei V. Kiriyenko, the director of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation, told Russian news organizations, “We are counting on the nuclear power station launching in August, if everything goes as planned.”

Critics have long said that German and Iranian businessman have managed to deliver nuclear technology to Iran over the years because of Germany’s lax export controls.

“Various scandals regarding illegal Iran trade during the last years show that Germany needs to implement a much stricter export control system, and it should throw out Iranian state companies like the Ascotec GmbH in Düsseldorf and the front companies of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines in Hamburg,” Jonathan Weckerle, a spokesman for the German chapter of the Stop the Bomb organization, told the Post.

Stop the Bomb seeks to dramatically curtail Germany’s flourishing trade relationship with Teheran and to promote Iran’s growing democracy movement.

“German exports to Iran increased by 3 percent in February 2010 when compared to February 2009. Imports even increased 159%, according to the latest numbers from the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce,” Weckerle said.

He added that “Russia will never be a partner for harsh sanctions against the Islamic regime because of its strong economic ties with Iran... They are also used as leverage in conflicts with the West. Threatening to complete the Bushehr reactor or to deliver sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran is part of this dangerous game. Unfortunately, UN sanctions can only be the basis for much harsher sanctions of a coalition of the willing.”

Lenient criminal penalties and inadequate control procedures in the Federal Republic have allowed for cutting-edge Germany equipment to be shipped to Bushehr, according to critics. Georg and Axel Kruger, whom the tabloids have dubbed the “Atom brothers” and who own the industrial equipment manufacturer Industrieausrustung-Service-Vertrieb, based in Magdeburg, were able to supply a control device for a crane to the Bushehr plant without a special export permit in 2005. They were slapped with a mild financial penalty and avoided imprisonment.

Meanwhile, Uwe Lyko , a public prosecutor in Bremen, told the Post that he is waiting for a green light from the Foreign Ministry in Berlin to prosecute the Niemet steel firm. The Bremen public prosecutor suspects that Manfred J. Niemann, the owner of Niemet, delivered three aluminum plates to Iran without the required permits in 2005. The plates can be used for military purposes.

The pro-business Free Democratic Party controls the Foreign Ministry and observers see a reluctance on the part of the ministry to clamp down on medium sized companies, which provide the core of the party’s voting constituency.

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