Controversial German politician leading UN agency accused of helping Iran with nuclear program technologies


Iranian diplomats were reportedly seen last month holding talks at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), a sprawling, Byzantine bureaucracy based in Vienna. UNIDO provides funds and technology that critics say enables the world’s worst terrorist sponsor state, Iran.

The new director of UNIDO is a German politician who made racist remarks denigrating African men in 2016. Gerd Müller, the appointed director general of UNIDO, apologized for his remarks in 2016 while the minister German Development Officer for what he called his “not very nuanced” statement.

In July, UNIDO’s board recommended Müller to become the next CEO of an agency so plagued by corruption, inefficiency and incompetence that the United States withdrew its support for Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Müller is still Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Development Minister who is expected to succeed the outgoing Chinese director general.

The United States withdrew from UNIDO in 1996 because, according to Brett D. Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation, it concluded that the agency “had no clear purpose and was generally ineffective.”

UNIDO’s delivery of dual-use technologies, which can be used for military and civilian purposes, to the Islamic Republic raises troubling issues for the agency and its future director.


Daniel Roth, research director for United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), told FOX NEWS that “we need to be clear that UNIDO is not just a waste of money and a hotbed of corruption, like many other United Nations agencies. What makes UNIDO unique among UN agencies is that it actively, albeit inadvertently, contributes to providing American and Western adversaries with important technology that can be used for military and even terrorist purposes. Its endemic lack of transparency and oversight only exacerbates the problem.

He noted that UNIDO has implemented projects in some of the world’s worst rogue regimes, including Cuba, Venezuela and even North Korea, all of which are under US sanctions.

A former diplomat accredited to all international organizations in Vienna, including UNIDO, who asked to remain anonymous, called for US action and congressional hearings on UNIDO. “The United States and its allies should independently visit UNIDO headquarters in Vienna, review these plans and drop off personnel.”

The veteran diplomat warned, “Any state that doesn’t want rogue regimes to acquire or refine their ADM systems should care about UNIDO and why it employs 2,500 people around the world. (They) must care about agents / nationals of North Korea, Iran OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] and NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) mix as employees between, UNIDO, IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and the CTBTO [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.]

Roth of UANI said Müller’s task is that he “must simply suspend all ongoing Iranian projects.” [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] sprawling and growing in scope in all areas of the Iranian economy, it is simply impossible to ignore the inevitability that the IRGC will acquire dangerous technology obtained through UNIDO projects. “

“UNIDO currently has 11 projects in Iran worth $ 17.5 million … Currently, UNIDO is funding a project called“ Promoting and Developing Innovative SMEs in the Islamic Republic of Iran ”, focused on“ improving the competitiveness of ICT [information and communications technology] start-ups and SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] in Iran, ”said Roth.

“Despite the innocuous title, there are several obvious points of concern.” Noting that the agreements stem from a 2019 letter from Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, who is Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology.

“Jahromi is a key player in Iran’s brutal war against dissenting voices and plays a key role in repression and censorship … Jahromi also served seven years, from 2002 to 2009, in the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, the one of the most brutal agencies under the regime and responsible for the torture and execution of journalists, ethnic and sexual minorities and other dissenting voices … and despite it all (including being sanctioned by states United for Internet Censorship), UNIDO sees fit to respond to – and even implement – this man’s request, ”says Roth.

Germany is Tehran’s most important European trading partner and has been accused for decades of its lax policy of transferring military technology to the Iranian regime, which has led some to express concern over Müller’s new stance.

A photo taken on Nov. 10, 2019 shows an Iranian flag in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to start work on a second reactor at the facility.  - Bushehr is Iran's only nuclear power plant and currently operates on fuel imported from Russia which is closely monitored by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.  (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP via Getty Images)

A photo taken on Nov. 10, 2019 shows an Iranian flag in Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to start work on a second reactor at the facility. – Bushehr is Iran’s only nuclear power plant and currently operates on fuel imported from Russia which is closely monitored by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP via Getty Images)


When FOX NEWS asked Müller about the project, a spokesperson for the German Development Ministry replied: Islamic Republic of Iran. ‘ UNIDO does not have the financial means to pay for physical capital goods, their transport or to transfer technologies directly to beneficiary countries.

The spokesperson added that “its aim is to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the technical capacities of support services for civilian start-up and large-scale ICT-related businesses in Iran. These companies include Internet service platforms comparable to companies such as Amazon. or Uber in other countries. “

While Müller served in Merkel’s cabinet, the German government’s Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control gave the green light to transfer dual-use technology to the Tehran regime that was incorporated into manufactured chlorine missiles. by Iran who poisoned Syrians, including children, in 2018, as reported at

A State Department spokesperson did not respond to a question from Fox News about whether the United States had made it clear to Müller that UNIDO must end the agreements it had with the Iran and other outlaw regimes, but answered a question about a recent UNIDO / IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) agreement signed in June. The United States is the atomic agency’s largest donor.

“We are aware of a technical cooperation agreement between the IAEA and UNIDO which allows information sharing and would refer you to the IAEA for further questions on this agreement,” the spokesperson said. while noting that the United States is not part of UNIDO and “therefore does not provide assessed funding.

“The United States supports the important work of the IAEA in the areas of nuclear safeguards, safety, security and peaceful uses of nuclear energy and maintains management controls to ensure that US funding advances these critical priorities. “


When asked how Müller plans to address UNIDO’s shortcomings, his spokesperson sent Fox News a July 12 statement posted on the German Development Ministry website. “The battle against COVID-19 and climate change requires greater commitment from industrialized countries to developing countries. We need more innovation and investment as well as global technologies and knowledge transfer, ”said Müller.

Despite several requests for comment, a UNIDO spokesperson did not respond to Fox News’ questions regarding the charges against the agency. Fox News understands that Müller will present his plans to UNIDO during the last week of August, it is far from clear whether Iranian plans will be canceled.

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a member of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

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