Sunday 6 July 2008

Germany admits financing Larijani forum, by Benjamin Weinthal

Reported in TJP:

"The German government has admitted it was deeply involved in funding last month's conference here on the Middle East, and reports indicate it suggested inviting former Iranian deputy foreign minister Muhammad Javad Ardashir Larijani to speak at the gathering, where he called for the destruction of Israel.

At the Third Transatlantic Conference - whose stated purpose was to address "common solutions" in the Middle East - Larijani said the "Zionist project" should be "canceled" and argued that Israel "has failed miserably and has only caused terrible damage to the region."

Jens Plötner, a spokesman for German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend that the Foreign, Economics and Research ministries and Chancellor Angela Merkel's office transferred funds to the Hesse Foundation for Peace and Conflict Research, which he said had proposed inviting Larijani. The grant was made from a fund for "civil society projects." (...)

Bernd W. Kubbig of the Hesse Foundation, the principal organizer of the conference, refused to provide the Post with a transcript of the event in which Larijani said, "Denial of the Holocaust in the Muslim world has nothing to with anti-Semitism. And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never denied the Holocaust."

However, Ahmadinejad has consistently questioned the authenticity of the Holocaust, and he invited well-know Holocaust deniers to the "World without Zionism" conference held in Teheran in 2005.

Critics charge Kubbig with placating a regime that wishes to destroy Israel. "The idea that today the Iranian regime would like to complete the Nazis' job is bad enough; even worse, however, is German cooperation with this," said Nasrin Amirsedghi, an Iranian intellectual who fled the Islamic Republic and now lives in Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate. (...)

A weeklong investigation by the Post indicates that the German government has been intensifying its business and political relations with Iran in 2008. With the exception of 2007, Germany has remained Iran's No. 1 European Union trade partner over the years. Economists attributed the decline in 2007 to private-sector complications in Iran, and not to German political policy.

In the first quarter of 2008, Iranian-German business mushroomed to €1.35 billion, an 18% increase when compared with the first four months of 2007. Germany supplies a technology-starved Iran with sophisticated equipment for its energy sector and growing infrastructure. Total German export trade to Iran has consistently hovered around €4b. each year.
Merkel has talked about tightening the economic screws on Iran, but her informal policy to discourage trade has not curtailed the strong economic ties between the countries.

Siemens, the electrical giant, maintains a robust yearly trade of between $500m. and $1b. with Iran. The German company Wirth, according to Emanuele Ottolenghi, director of the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels, "sold tunnel-boring equipment to Iran for its Ghomroud water project." While such heavy earth-moving machines can be used to build underground nuclear weapons facilities, the German government approved the deal for the machines, which critics consider to be a telling example of "dual-use" equipment."

Berlin forum calls for Israel's destruction, by Benjamin Weinthal
Wiesenthal Center: Sue ex-Iranian Official

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