- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 28, 2010

Europe’s largest engineering conglomerate announced this week that it would be forgoing new business with Iran.

“Some time ago, we reduced our business activities with customers in Iran,” Peter Loescher, chief executive of Siemens, said in response to questions at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Munich on Tuesday.

Alexander Becker, a spokesman for the company, confirmed the decision to Agence France-Presse on Wednesday: “The board has decided not to conclude new contracts with commercial partners in Iran.”

He added that a decision had already been taken to this effect within the company in October.

Siemens came under scrutiny last spring after The Washington Times reported that the company, in a joint venture with the Finnish cell-phone maker Nokia, had sold Iran a high-tech surveillance system known as a monitoring center that is capable of recording e-mails and cell-phone calls of dissidents.

The Nokia-Siemens Network had sold the monitoring-center portion of that business to another German concern in February.

Michael Spaney, a spokesman for Stop the Bomb, a German advocacy group that seeks to publicize German trade with the Islamic Republic, greeted the announcement with some skepticism.

“My assessment is that we are happy Siemens will not make new deals,” Mr. Spaney said. “We are not so happy this will only start in mid-2010. We do not know what new deals they can make at that time anyway.”

Mr. Spaney said his group is also skeptical about the announcement because Siemens is known to send goods through third countries. “They were sending industrial computers via China, and Siemens said they did not know about the ultimate end user,” he said.

The company also had come under fire in the United States. It nearly lost a bid to build train cars for a new rail system in Los Angeles county after the local Iranian and Jewish communities protested the prospect of Siemens winning the contract. The bidding process ended up being delayed.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and one of the organizers against Siemens, said in a statement: “If this also means that Siemens will also desist from any future third-party deals with Iran, we will drop our opposition against Siemens bids for future projects in California and elsewhere in the U.S.”

A spokeswoman for Siemens America Group declined to comment.

• Eli Lake can be reached at elake@washingtontimes.com.

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