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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

SHOW: NBC Nightly News 6:30 AM EST NBC February 23, 2005

European companies, some who trade with the US, showing civilian and military air technology in Iran




Now to an NBC News exclusive, a rare glimpse inside Iran, specifically an air show attended by some of the world's leading military contractors. Who did we find there? Dozen of European companies eager to do business with Iran. NBC News senior investigative corespondent Lisa Myers has our story.

LISA MYERS reporting:

The island of Kish, Iran. An air show hosted by Iran for defense and aerospace companies eager to do business with America's adversary. Mullahs mixed with Ukrainian generals, amid photos of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Iran made its contempt for the US clear. Emblazoned underneath this helicopter in Farsi, "Death to America." It is generally illegal for American companies to do business with Iran, but NBC News found more than a dozen European defense and aviation firms eager to fill the void. Some do business with the Pentagon yet were actively selling their wares to Iran.

Unidentified Man: We sell to the Iran air force.

Mr. ARNAULD CHEVALIER (Auxiliare Technique): We do sell mainly to security people, like police.

MYERS: We showed what we found to arms expert John Pike.

Mr. JOHN PIKE (Globalsecurity.org Director): I think that the Europeans would sell their grandmothers to the Iranians if they thought they could make a buck.

MYERS: This is the booth for the French company EADS and its subsidiary Eurocopter, which has launched a campaign in the US to get a bigger share of Pentagon contracts, featuring these ads wrapping the company in the American flag. But if this company is so pro-American, why is it ignoring US policy to isolate Iran?

Mr. MICHAEL TRIPIER (EADS): As a European company, we're not supposed to take into account embargoes from the US. Of course, the emphasis here is on the civil helicopters. We're not offering military helicopters here.

MYERS: Yet, prominent on the company's video in Iran, a military helicopter.

Mr. PIKE: They're marketing a navy helicopter.

MYERS: A military helicopter.

Mr. PIKE: It says `navy' in their own promotional videotape.

MYERS: Why would they do that?

Mr. PIKE: Well, I guess they're hoping Iran's navy is going to want to buy it.

MYERS: EADS says that helicopter just happened to be on the video, and that it abides by US and European rules against selling military goods to Iran. This company, Finmeccanica, recently won a contract to build a new version of Marine One for the president. Yet here it is showing off its helicopters to Iran.

Mr. PIKE: This company is building the American president's new helicopter, and they're trying to trade with the enemy. vMYERS: Is Iran an enemy of the United States?

Mr. STEVEN BRYEN: I think they're our enemy at this point. I mean, they're behaving like our enemy.

MYERS: Steven Bryen used to be the Pentagon official responsible for preventing technology from going to countries like Iran. Now he's the president of Finmeccanica in the US.

Why would your company trade with a country that you yourself call America's enemy?

Mr. BRYEN: Because in Europe, they don't call it the enemy. If it's a civilian item that doesn't threaten anyone, then I don't have a problem with that.

MYERS: European subsidiaries of NBC's parent company, General Electric, have sold energy and power equipment to Iran, but GE recently announced it will make no new sales. Still, even with the president now pushing hard to isolate Tehran, European allies are likely to continue their role as what one company called a reliable partner for Iran. Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.

Copyright 2005, National Broadcasting Co. Inc.