German firm signs €825m. deal with Iran

Petrochemical company to provide Iran with technology to build 3 plants to produce synthetics.

The giant petrochemical company Basell Polyolefine signed what appears to be this year's largest European trade deal with Iran on Monday to supply technology to build three plants involving synthetic and plastic material. The Persian-language site of the Iranian Fars news agency reported that the German-Iranian contract totaled €825 million. Waldermar Oldenburger, a spokesman for Basell Polyolefine, told The Jerusalem Post that the company had signed the deal with the Iranian Petrochemical Company, but he declined to comment on the sum. When asked if the chemical deal had been approved by the German Economic Ministry, Oldenburger said he "assumed" the regulatory arm of the ministry (BAFA) had issued a green light on the deal. In an e-mail to the Post, however, Oldenburger said the "licensing of technology to produce synthetic material does not fall under the export control of the Economic Ministry." The transfer of chemical "dual-use" goods, which can serve both military and civilian goals, falls under the provisions of the current sanctions imposed on Iran. Basell's decision to supply chemical technology to the Islamic Republic could spell a violation of UN and EU sanctions, as well as German trade law, if the material can be applied for military purposes. Oldenburger told the Post that the company was "selling know-how technology" and was not involved in the construction of three plants in southern Iran. Jonathan Weckerle, a spokesman for the nonpartisan organization Stop the Bomb, which seeks to halt Iran's nuclear program, said in a statement, "The deal before the presidential elections is a present for [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. The Iranian regime is encouraged by such deals to continue with human rights violations, the nuclear program and threats of annihilation toward Israel. Germany in this way undermines any kind of international pressure on Iran and the announced US-Iranian negotiations." Oldenburger declined to comment on whether the massive contract with Teheran contradicted the policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel's administration to discourage trade with Iran and whether the deal would adversely affect the so-called "special relationship" between Germany and Israel. The company spokesman said questions about Basell Polyolefine and its corporate responsibility to Israel because of the Holocaust were " very sensitive questions." In a follow-up e-mail, Oldenburger wrote that "there is no relationship with respect to the Holocaust and the existing contract" with the Islamic Republic of Iran.