Committee launches probe into alleged UN shipments to Iran, North Korea

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is launching an investigation into a United Nations agency that allegedly supplied computers and other sensitive technology to Iran and North Korea.

The probe is centered on whether the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO,  violated U.N. sanctions by providing computer equipment to the two countries.

“Providing these thugs with sensitive technology has the potential to enable their dangerous agendas,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. “This serious offense cannot go overlooked or unpunished.” 

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Ros-Lehtinen said U.N. agencies have “gone out of their way” to flout the sanctions, and called for reform. To that end, the Florida Republican is an author of a bill that would change the U.N.’s funding mechanism.

“Despite the administration's claims to have made significant strides in reforming the U.N., the U.N.’s actions tell a different story,” she said. “Instead of throwing even more money at bad programs and hoping for the best, we need to condition our contributions to the UN on tangible reforms.” 

The State Department has opened its own investigation into WIPO’s activities in Iran. A spokeswoman said the department became aware of a WIPO development project in Iran in May after conducting a review of UN agency work in sanctioned countries. 

A legal counsel for WIPO told Bloomberg that Iran and North Korea received standard information technology equipment that “did not include the type of technology or training prohibited by the U.N. Security Council resolutions for the said countries.”

The 185-member U.N. agency is responsible for promoting the use of intellectual property to encourage innovation and economic development, according to WIPO’s website. Part of its mission also includes assisting developing countries in building IP infrastructure, such as updating patent systems. 

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