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Germany

Iran Courts German Firms, Offers 'Guarantees'

Iran is actively courting business investment from German companies, offering "guarantees" to those willing to take the plunge. Its aim: to offset financial damage resulting from its rogue image.

Collage of Iranian and German flags

Small and medium-sized German companies are of particular interest to Iran, the FTD said

Despite political pressure from the German government, Iran is making the round of German firms, courting business partnerships.

"We will give guarantees for their investment," acting Iranian Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari told the Monday, Aug. 18, edition of the daily Financial Times Deutschland. "We are open for any and all business."

Safari did not clarify exactly what kind of business guarantees were meant.

Targeting small, midsize firms

The country is particularly seeking small and midsize firms, which are less likely than large firms to be able to secure their own investments, the FTD explained.

Iran's deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari holds a news conference in the Iranian embassy in Berlin, Germany, Friday, April 18, 2008.

Acting FM Safari: discretion is guaranteed

Doing business with Iran is not an obvious choice, especially for German companies. Germany is one of six nations leading international efforts to halt Teheran's nuclear enrichment program. Tehran insists the program in solely to produce electricity, while many in the West believe it is a cover to build nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, the Siegen concern Steiner caused a sensation when it said it would sell three liquefied natural gas plants to Iran. Although regulators gave the deal a green light, the USA and Israel, among others, were severely critical.

German companies have kept a discreet eye on the deal ever since it became known through the Iranian media. Steiner's 2007 sales in Iran were valued at 3.6 billion euros ($5.3 billion), according to the FTD.

Meanwhile, German business has criticized Berlin for failing to adequately protect their interests. The government recently cut its export credit guarantees, which help cover risk for companies doing business overseas.

Germany has long been one of Iran's largest European trading partners.

Discretion assured

Safari, who is responsible for Iran's foreign ministry's ties to Europe, said Germans interested in doing business with Iran were welcome to do it as far outside of the public eye as possible.

"You can get the job done without advertising it," he told the FTD.

Big companies, too, could conduct business with Iran while avoiding public criticism -- regardless of Western sanctions, Safari added.

"I don't need to show them how to do that," he told FTD.

Safari said he plans to come to Germany in the next two months to drum up business.

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