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Germany arrests four suspected of busting Iran embargo

Police arrested four men suspected of supplying valves for a heavy water reactor in Iran. The deliveries were part of an order worth several million euros for a project Western powers fear will be used for weapons.

An view of a heavy-water production plant, which went into operation despite UN demands that Iran roll back its nuclear program

Iran neue nukleare Anlagen in Arak

German police arrested four men on Wednesday who are suspected of delivering valves for a heavy water reactor to Iran and breaking an embargo of such exports to the Islamic Republic.

Prosecutors said about 90 customs officers were involved in the arrest of the men, one German and three with dual German and Iranian citizenship. They were arrested at their homes in the northern cities of Hamburg and Oldenburg and the eastern town of Weimar.

"In 2010 and 2011 the suspects are believed to have helped in the delivery of special valves for the construction of a heavy water reactor in Iran and therefore to have broken the Iran embargo," prosecutors said in a statement on Wednesday.

To avoid export controls, the men are suspected of having described the customer as a firm based in Turkey and Azerbaijan.

"The deliveries were part of an order worth several million euros which Iran was trying to use to secure the necessary valve technology to make a heavy water reactor," said the prosecutors.

The men were therefore suspected of breaking Germany's law on foreign trade and breaching military weapons controls.

Prosecutors named the men only as Kianzad Ka., Gholamali Ka., Hamid Kh. and Rudolf M. Customs officials also searched the property of another suspect in the eastern town of Halle.

Refusal to suspend enrichment

Iran has been hit with several rounds of UN sanctions since 2006 due to its refusal to suspend enrichment of uranium. Depending on the level of refinement, the process yields fuel for nuclear power stations as well as nuclear bombs.

Iran, the world's fifth biggest oil exporter, says it wants to build nuclear plants for electricity in order to accommodate the needs of its growing population.

Iran is currently building a heavy water plant in Arak, central Iran. Iran says the plutonium the plant will produce is for medical research, but Western powers suspect the plant could be used to produce plutonium for a potential bomb.

On Tuesday, British Bank Standard Chartered reached a settlement with New York regulators over allegations it violated US sanctions against Iran. It will pay a $340 million fine for reportedly hiding transactions linked to Iran.

hc / rc (Reuters, afp)