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US lawmakers claim Huawei sold censor tech to Iran

Six members of Congress want State Department investigation

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US lawmakers are calling on the State Department to investigate whether or not Chinese tech firm Huawei has violated sanctions by supplying monitoring technology to Iran.

Six lawmakers wrote a letter to the department just before Christmas, which has now been made public, citing an article in the Wall Street Journal in October last year that had suggested Huawei had sold communications technology used for censorship.

"We ask you to expeditiously investigate whether Huawei and other telecommunications firms have [provided] sensitive technology to the Iranian government that is or has been used to restrict the speech of the Iranian people and the free flow of unbiased information in Iran," the letter, available here through the WSJ, said.

Huawei has fiercely denied the allegations and insists the original WSJ report, which it had already refuted, was wrong.

"Unfortunately, a few Members of Congress continue to cite inaccurate media reports that include groundless allegations and errors of fact, which Huawei has since responded to with a fact-based statement," the company said in an email.

In the statement following the WSJ article, issued in November, Huawei claimed that it had provided a mobile news delivery platform to MTN Irancell, the national telco, but it had "absolutely no technology that can be used for news censorship".

"We have never been involved in and do not provide any services relating to monitoring or filtering technologies and equipment anywhere in the world," Huawei said then.

Shortly after that, at the beginning of December, the Chinese firm announced that it would be reining in its activities in Iran, "due to the increasingly complex situation" there.

"Huawei will voluntarily restrict its business development there by no longer seeking new customers and limiting its business activities with existing customers," it said.

The six lawmakers acknowledged that Huawei had promised to scale back its activities in the country in their letter, but said "the company's previous actions and continuing service of existing contracts with Iranian clients may violate [the sanctions]".

Huawei, along with other Chinese tech firms, has been trying to expand its business in America, but has met with various forms of political resistance to its efforts.

In October last year, the US Department of Commerce blocked Huawei from participating in the construction of a national wireless network for the police, ambulance and fire services, citing "national security concerns".

The following month, the House of Representatives committee on intelligence said it had launched an investigation into Huawei and ZTE, looking at "the extent to which" their expansion in the country gives that Chinese government the opportunity to spy on the US. ®

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