U.N. agency sanctions probe criticizes IT exports to Iran, North Korea

GENEVA Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:09am IST

GENEVA (Reuters) - A probe into whether a U.N. agency's shipments of computer equipment to Iran and North Korea breached U.N. and U.S. sanctions criticized the exports but found that they were legal.

"e simply cannot fathom how WIPO could have convinced itself that most Member States would support the delivery of equipment to countries whose behavior was so egregious it forced the international community to impose embargoes, and where the deliveries, if initiated by the recipient countries, would violate a Member State's national laws," the report said.

The shipments, worth around $200,000, are the subject of two U.S. government investigations into whether the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) broke sanctions aimed at curbing the development of nuclear weapons technology.

"The DPRK and Iran could not have legally purchased most, if not all, of the U.S.-origin equipment ... due to restrictions imposed under U.S. national law," said the report commissioned by WIPO, the U.N.'s richest body, and signed by Swedish police official Stig Edqvist and U.S. attorney John Barker.

The probe recommended that WIPO consider complying with the national laws of member states even if it is not legally obliged to do so and take steps to increase transparency.

WIPO says it is not subject to U.S. national law because of its privileges and immunities as an international organization, the report said. U.N. diplomats and officials in New York said that while compliance with member states' laws is not mandatory, they are often followed to avoid unnecessary criticism.

"We found no evidence to call into question the initial U.S. determination that the U.S. does not believe these projects violated U.N. Security Council resolutions," said the report.

A WIPO spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the report and considering its recommendations.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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