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Bonn Investigating Role of Firms in Helping Iraq Build Arms Factory

The federal government here is cracking down on West German firms that illegally export weapons technology and equipment to radical Arab regimes.

The Economics Ministry announced Monday that it has opened an investigation into allegations that German companies are heavily involved in the construction of an arms factory near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad that is designed to produce cannons.

If their participation is confirmed, it would constitute a flagrant violation of German law, a ministry spokesman said.

Local press reports say at least six German companies helped the Iraqis build the factory.

On July 2, the state prosecutor accused the Ferrostaal Co. in Essen of illegally shipping giant gun barrels to Iraq, in violation of the export laws. The barrels were said to be part of a huge cannon the Iraqis were assembling that could hurl missiles as far as Israel or deep into Iran.

The West German government, meanwhile, is going out of its way to demonstrate to friends and allies that it will take strong measures against the illegal export of weapons and weapons technology.

The Bundestag decided at the beginning of June to tighten existing export laws. But they are still well below the standards of West Germany’s major allies.

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