Israel has expressed its disappointment at Germany's decision to permit a firm to build three gas plants in Iran, saying it contravened the spirit of the UN sanctions aimed at halting Tehran's nuclear program.
Israel would like to see the West taking firmer action against Iran
"The ministry will talk to the highest officials within the German government to obtain clarification and express its concern over the fact that the German office of export controls gave its green light to the contract," foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel told the AFP news agency.
"The fact that Germany, a member of the European group EU3, which includes France, Britain and Germany, is adopting a position that harms international efforts to considerably toughen sanctions against Iran over its continued nuclear program, is worrying," the ministry said in a statement.
But the German economics ministry said in a statement that the liquefied natural gas plants did not fall under any category of goods banned under the sanctions, adding that there was no legal means for preventing the transaction.
Goods "not of controversial nature"
Tehran is accused of using its nuclear energy program as a cover to build nuclear weapons
The German Export Control Office described the rift as a "misunderstanding." Spokesman Holger Beutel said the 100 million euro ($156 million) deal between the German engineering firm Steiner Prematechnik Gastec and Iran was "for the export of goods that are not of a controversial nature."
The three systems are to cool and compress natural gas into liquid form so it can be transported by ship to export customers.
This week the Simon Wiesenthal Centre appealed to Berlin to prohibit the deal. Jewish groups have criticized the contract, charging that Germany is fostering economic relations with Iran despite that nation's nuclear program and its threats toward Israel.
Germany is one of Iran's leading trading partners. Last year, German exports to the country totaled some 3.6 billion euros.
Berlin has, however, reduced export guarantees with Iran, and German banks have largely ceased doing business with the Islamic republic due to its nuclear program. Tehran insists its nuclear activities are non-military, but the West, including the United States many European Union nations, fears Iran is covertly trying to build nuclear weapons.
Germany is one of six states leading international efforts to thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions. Iran denies planning to build nuclear warheads under the cover of a civilian atomic energy program.