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Germany supplied supergun { January 31 2003 }

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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 13:02 GMT
Germans guilty in Iraq supergun case

A court in the German city of Mannheim has convicted two businessmen of supplying weapons-making equipment to Iraq in violation of UN sanctions.

Engineer Bernd Schompeter was sentenced to five years and three months for dealing in drills that can be used for boring tubes for long-range cannons, capable of launching nuclear, chemical or biological warheads.

A second defendant, Willi Heinz Ribbeck, was given a two-year suspended sentence for failing to alert his superiors to the sale of the drills to Mr Schompeter by his Burgsmueller machine company.

Both defendants, who are in their 50s, have confessed to the main charge of supplying the equipment.

Mr Schompeter admitted delivering the drills to an Iraqi-born US businessman in Jordan, from where they were sent on to Iraq.

But he denied knowing the equipment could be used to make large guns.

Other investigations

Prosecutors are seeking extradition of the third man, Sahib Abd al-Amir al-Haddad, following his arrest in Bulgaria in November.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles says prosecutors are hoping the punishments will deter others from helping Iraq to obtain weapons.

There are concerns that this may not be an isolated case and investigations into other companies are continuing.

Last December, Tageszeitung newspaper reported that over 80 German companies were listed in Iraq's weapons report to the UN.

Several of these were still involved in Iraq last year, thereby breaking the UN weapons embargo.

Of further embarrassment to Germany is that - according to the newspaper article - German companies make up more than half of the total number of institutions listed in the report.

Under UN resolutions, Iraq is allowed to possess long-range artillery, but the export of new weaponry, or weapon-making equipment, to the country is banned.

It is not known whether Iraq has actually built any of the long-range guns yet, but if it has they could be used against troops taking part in a US-led invasion.

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