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Friday, July 20, 2007

50 German firms under investigation for helping Iran's nuke program

LONDON Germany is investigating scores of companies suspected of aiding Iran's nuclear program. Officials said 50 German companies may have been involved in the sale dual-use systems and material required for Iran's nuclear project. They said Berlin has determined that the shipments were being used to complete Iran's nuclear energy plant at Bushehr.

"The equipment was ordered by Russia and diverted to Iran," an official said.

On July 12, Germany prosecutor Christoph Lange identified one of the companies. Lange said the Berlin-based company Vero was suspected of shipping nuclear material to Moscow via Poland. From there, he said, the material was exported to Iran.

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Vero was identified as a supplier to Bushehr since 2000. Officials said the company purchased nuclear technology from dozens of companies in Germany for Russian contractors of Bushehr.

The German exports to Bushehr were believed to top 150 million euros, officials said. Lange said prosecutors have so far traced about five million euros worth of German exports slated for the Iranian nuclear reactor.

Officials said the companies have argued that they had merely filled orders from Russian clients. But Lange said at least a dozen of the German firms knew that Iran was the final destination.

Another German company was said to have exported parts for a crane ordered for Bushehr. The shipments by the unidentified company, located in the former East Germany, were reported to have taken place in 2001 and 2002.

The United States has long complained that German companies were facilitating Iran's nuclear program. In 2004, a German company employee was arrested in Saxony-Anhalt on charges of smuggling technology destined for Iran to Russia.

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