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Germany Says Iran Still Trying To Acquire Nuclear Technology

Germany says factions opposed to Iranian President Hassan Rohani's nuclear deal are still trying to acquire nuclear technology illicitly.

Germany charged on July 8 that conservative forces in Iran still appear to be trying to acquire nuclear technology, likely with the goal of undermining Tehran's nuclear deal with the West.

Germany's intelligence agency said in its annual report Iran's persistent efforts to illegally acquire nuclear technology in Germany continued at a "high level" during 2015.

A separate report from the intelligence agency in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia this week said it had registered 141 attempts to acquire technology for proliferation purposes last year, and that two-thirds of these attempts were linked to Iran.

Commenting on the reports on July 8, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said that they made for "unpleasant" reading, but he noted that they covered a period before the landmark nuclear deal went into force in January of this year.

He suggested that the Iranian procurement efforts documented in the reports may stem from forces in Iran that oppose the deal, under which Iran agreed to conduct only peaceful nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of Western economic sanctions.

"There are forces within Iran for which the policies of the country's president and foreign minister are a thorn in the eye," Schaefer said. "They may be trying, one way or another, to undermine or torpedo the nuclear deal and the normalization of relations between us and Iran. We are watching this closely."

Schaefer said the same conservative forces likely are behind Iran's repeated ballistic missile tests, which Germany and the United States view as violations of United Nations sanctions.

"We are already talking to our partners in New York and elsewhere, and we won't hesitate to discuss this with Tehran," he said

Still, he said Germany has a "great deal of faith" in President Hassan Rohani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and believes that they are doing their best to stick to the deal, which ended a 12-year standoff with the West over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose power far outweighs that of Iran's elected officials in parliament or the presidency, gave decisive support to the nuclear deal.

But hardline allies of Khamenei, including the elite Revolutionary Guards, are wary of losing their grip on power by opening up to the West, and have repeatedly criticized pragmatist Rohani's foreign policy.

The Rhine agency's report said Iran's procurement efforts in 2015 had been focused on so-called "dual-use" technologies that can be used in both civil and military sectors. While nuclear-related procurement attempts fell slightly, those related to Iran's missile program rose.

The report said documents had been falsified to suggest technologies were destined for the oil, gas, and steel industries. Also in an apparent attempt to cover its tracks, Iran was seeking to acquire technologies via third countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and China, the report said.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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