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US technology killing US troops in Iraq: Report

April 02, 2008 10:51 IST

American-made computer circuits sold to a trading company in the United Arab Emirates have turned up as detonators in the roadside bombs aimed at US troops in Iraq, a media report said on Wednesday.

The finding, according to New York Times, set off a clash with Washington last year when the Bush administration cited the diversion of the computer circuits to Iran, and eventually Iraq, as proof that the UAE was failing to prevent American technology from slipping into the wrong hands.

The US officials were quoted as saying that aircraft parts, specialised metals and gas detectors that have a potential military use had also moved through Dubai, one of the Emirates, to Iran, Syria or Pakistan.

The diplomatic face-off, which drew little attention, prompted the US to threaten tough new controls on exports to the UAE, it said, adding the nation had invested billions to become a global trading hub.

The administration backed down only after the Emirates promised to pass their own export control law. But it is unclear that much has changed nearly a year after the confrontation, the Times said.

Yousef al-Otaiba, an adviser to the crown prince of the UAE, was quoted as saying that his country is more closely monitoring goods that it re-exports while blocking items that might help Iran build weapons.

But trade experts and Iranian traders in Dubai said there was little evidence that the new export control law was being broadly enforced, according to the Times.

'It has virtually had no effect, to be honest,' Nasser Hashempour, deputy president of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, told the paper, adding, 'if someone wants to move something, get it to Iran -- it is easy to be done.'

Relations with the UAE have long been delicate for the US, the Times said, noting that Dubai, for example, is the host for more Navy ships than any port outside the America and is an important listening post for US intelligence personnel.

Emirates officials have complied with a Bush administration request to inspect American-bound ship containers for nuclear threats as they move through Dubai.

But the country, which is made up of the emirates Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Umm al Qaywayn and Ras al Khaymah, has deep economic and cultural ties with Iran, which is only about 112 km across the Persian Gulf from Dubai, the Times said.

Around 400,000 Iranians live in the Emirates, many of them traders who track down goods in the sprawling market of Dubai and then re-export them to Iran, at times ignoring United Nations trade sanctions related to Tehran's controversial nuclear programme and a broader US embargo.

Nearly $12 billion worth of American goods flowed into the Emirates in 2007. Officials in the emirates say the United States, which prohibits American companies from directly selling most goods to Iran and bars foreign companies from reselling dual-use products there, has complicated efforts to follow the rules.

The officials, with trade experts, blame America for overstating the potential dangers of certain goods or passing on tips about illicit shipments that are inaccurate or too vague to act, the paper said.

"They like to exaggerate, or at least try to point to some strategic significance of the item, like saying, This software programme could be used to design nuclear power plants, even if someone is just buying it to draw puppies and flowers,' Clif Burns, an export control lawyer at Powell Goldstein in Washington, was quoted as saying by the paper.
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