German trade with Iran has life of its own
Los Angeles Times / Borzou Daragahi

Reporting from Berlin —
Chancellor Angela Merkel can warn companies all she wants to stop doing business with Iran. Yet commerce between German firms and the Islamic Republic keeps expanding, as businesses here continue longstanding relationships with Tehran.

In the first four months of 2010, trade between Iran and Germany totaled nearly $1.8 billion, up 20% from the same period last year, according to the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Hamburg.

Germany and Iran "have a trading relation which is around 140 years old," said Michael Tockuss, a leading member of the lobbying group. "There are a large number of very well established business relations that go far beyond just the present."

Trade with Iran is especially sensitive given the Holocaust and Germany's post- World War II commitment to the state of Israel. Since first winning election, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly predicted the demise of Israel.

"If this proclaimed special relationship [between Germany and Israel] really has any meaning, and is not just rhetoric, this is the case where this should be applied," said Jonathan Weckerle of Stop the Bomb, a Berlin-based advocacy group in favor of cutting ties to the Islamic Republic. "We can see if it's only rhetoric or if it influences political decisions, even if it brings some costs to it."

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