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MTA takes issue with potential contractor's ties with Iran

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a vice chairman of the board, and another member are concerned that Siemens Corp. helped provide technology to monitor calls in that country.

July 18, 2009|Dan Weikel

Officials for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Friday that they were concerned about the Iranian business connections of Siemens Corp., a potential contender for lucrative contracts to build light rail and subway cars for the agency.

Siemens, which owns Siemens Transportation Systems Inc., partnered with Nokia last year to provide TCI, Iran's telecommunications company, the technology to monitor voice calls on the country's fixed and mobile telephone networks. Though such systems are legal and in place around the world, a controversy has erupted over whether the technology has provided the Iranian government with the capability to eavesdrop on dissidents.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is a vice chairman of the MTA board, and board member Richard Katz said they were concerned about Siemens' ties to Iran considering the widespread civil unrest that has followed the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"The mayor has been working to ensure that the city divests from any company that does business with Iran," said Matt Szabo, a spokesman for Villaraigosa. "So obviously any connection Siemens or any other potential contractor has to Iran would be of great concern to the mayor when considering a contract."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 19, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 2 inches; 75 words Type of Material: Correction
Rail contractor: In Saturday's Section A, an article reporting that Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials had concerns about a potential contractor's business connections with Iran inaccurately said that a firm related to another MTA rail contractor, AnsaldoBreda, has business deals with that nation. AnsaldoEnergia SPA -- owned by AnsaldoBreda's parent, Finmeccanica -- provided gas turbines to Iran under a contract awarded in 1997, but the work was completed in 2002, a spokesman said.

Katz said he had the same concerns. He noted that members of Congress are considering legislation to prevent federal contracts from going to companies doing business with Iran.

But the Iranian connection may get more complicated for MTA beyond the ties with Siemens Corp.

A potential competitor of Siemens Transportation Systems Inc. for MTA contracts is AnsaldoBreda, an Italian firm that is trying to win a $300-million MTA contract to build 100 light rail cars.

The MTA board is set to decide next week whether to award the job to Breda or rebid the contract because the company has been late delivering cars and has failed to meet MTA specifications.

However, Breda is owned by Finmeccanica, a conglomerate of defense, aerospace, energy and transportation companies, which has deals to provide Iran with 44 gas turbines through its subsidiary Ansaldo Energia.

Whether MTA should also avoid doing business with AnsaldoBreda "is a good question," Katz said.


Staff writer Maeve Reston contributed to this report.

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