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Germany

UN Nuclear Chief in Berlin For Talks Over Iran

Mohammed el ElBaradei met with German leaders in Berlin for talks over Iran amid reports of German customs agents uncovering an Iranian procurement network in the country.

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ElBaradei wants Iran to assuage lingering doubts over its nuclear ambitions

"I'd like to see Iran do all they can to build confidence,"

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Agency for Atomic Energy (IAEA), told reporters after talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier when asked about the report.

Merkel und Mohamed ElBaradei, Berlin, Gespräche über iranisches Atomprogramm

Merkel and ElBaradei met in Berlin

"I would like Iran to do what they can right now to lower our doubts... until negotiations resume," said ElBaradei, who also met German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his stay in Berlin.

Diplomats close to the UN nuclear watchdog told AFP Saturday that Iran could be running a 164-centrifuge pilot cascade to enrich uranium by the end of March or beginning of April. At the pilot cascade in the Iranian city of Natanz, "there is just piping to be finished, then they do vacuum tests, then they would test with inert gas and finally they would put in uranium gas to begin the process," said a diplomat close to the Vienna-based IAEA.

The remarks came at a time when talks within the UN Security Council on a statement calling Iran to account for its suspected nuclear weapons activities have reached an impasse.

Iran Atomanlage in Isfahan Uran

A nuclear facility in Isfahan in Iran

The United States and its allies charge that Iran's nuclear program conceals an effort to develop weapons and have urged it to halt sensitive uranium enrichment activities. Iran vehemently denies the charges, saying its research is peaceful and meant to provide fuel for its power plants.

Authorities uncover procurement network

El Baradei's visit to Berlin coincides with reports that German customs agents have discovered a network of entrepreneurs who were allegedly trying to buy material for the Iranian nuclear program, state prosecutors said Monday.

Some 250 agents raided 41 companies in 10 German states last week after learning of suspicious purchase requests by a Berlin firm, which is no longer in business, the prosecutor's office in Potsdam, near the German capital said.

"This involves the Iranian atomic procurement program," a spokesman told ARD television. "We have learned that the employees of this company approached companies in Germany in a targeted way to buy construction parts for Iran."

DEU ATOM HANAU AKTION p178

Plutonium tablets at a nuclear facility in Hanau, Germany

The searches revealed that six of the companies had done business with the Berlin company but only one of the firms, from the western state of Hesse, was under suspicion of violating export laws.

The prosecutor's office said that the deliveries went from the Berlin company run by Russians to a company near Moscow, and from there to Iran. The shipments included electronic parts and special cables. According to an ARD report, the Iranians had attempted to acquire hydraulic pumps and transformer parts in Germany.

A spokesman put the value of the deliveries at between two and three million euros ($2.4 and 3.6 million) Two million euros were seized in the raid of the Berlin business.

Strict export rules in Germany

The UN nuclear watchdog has been investigating Iran since February 2003 on US accusations that Tehran is using its civilian nuclear power program to hide an atomic weapons program. Iran rejects the charges.

The export of material that could be used in a nuclear program is subject to strict regulations in Germany and must be approved by the authorities.

Abdul Qadeer Khan

Discredited Pakistani scientist also know as the "Father of the Pakistani Bomb"

A German engineer went on trial this month accused of helping Libya's attempts to develop nuclear weapons using technology supplied through the smuggling network of the disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

He faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty by the court in the south-western city of Mannheim.

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