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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Iranian Businessmen Supplied Tehran With German Drone Technology

Berlin (AFP): Iranian businessmen currently on trial in Germany supplied the Islamic state with German-built satellite navigation systems used in drones, or pilotless aircraft, prosecutors in the western city of Duesseldorf said on Monday.

Seven of the GPS (global positioning system) systems were delivered while a further three were intercepted, public prosecutor Johannes Mocken said.

"We have to assume that the accused knew exactly or were at least acquainted with the fact that these GPS systems were destined to be used in Iran's military drones programme," Mocken said.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), can be used both in reconnaissance and attack missions, or as target practice.

Shiite militant group Hezbollah used drones in its recent 34-day conflict with Israel, although a spokesman for the Israeli defence forces said they were not armed and were used "principally as propaganda".

German television channel ARD's political magazine "Fakt" reported in a programme shown on Monday evening that drones from Iran had been used several times by Hezbollah against Israel.

And earlier this month Tim Garden from London-based international affairs think-tank Chatham House said that the Lebanese group had eight or nine drones produced by Tehran.

Jane's, the defence consultants, told AFP that the drones in question are of the Ababil type in service in Iran since the late 1990s of which the most commonly used version, the Ababil II, is unarmed.

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