Defense Agency Requests Delay of Iraq-Bound Furnace Shipment
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Defense Department request is delaying shipment of an industrial metal- casting furnace from a New Jersey manufacturer to the Iraqi government.
Customs Service spokesman David Hoover said Tuesday that the Office of Defense Technology Security Administration had asked his agency to detain the furnace. But he and John Konfala of the Pentagon agency declined further comment.
″All we can do as a furnace-building company is to follow the laws that the government has laid down,″ Raymond J. Roberts, president of Consarc Corp., of Rancocas, N.J., said in a telephone interview. ″We don’t have access to the intelligence sources that the government has.″
He said Consarc received government approval more than a year ago to sell Iraq a type of furnace that can cast titanium, a lightweight metal the Iraqis said they need to produce artificial limbs.
Titanium also can be used for weapons production.
British and American officials have seized other Iraq-bound cargoes this year, saying the shipments were for military use.
State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they expected a decision by Friday on whether to permit the Consarc export.
Roberts said Consarc, which sells about $20 million of industrial furnaces each year to customers worldwide, followed U.S. rules to the letter in arranging the sale.
He said Iraq’s Ministry of Industry and Minerals said it had a great need for artificial hip and knee joints for people injured during the Gulf war with Iran.
The Commerce Department told the company more than a year ago that there would be no problem with the sale, Roberts said.
However, Customs officials delayed the furnace when it reached the dock in Philadelphia on June 26.
″I’m totally confused,″ Roberts said.
John Thomas, a Commerce Department spokesman, said the Export Administration Act prohibited him from discussing any information about specific cases or companies.
Roberts said he knew of only two other furnaces like the furnace stopped at Philadelphia - one produced by another U.S. firm to make pumps for the chemical industry and another produced in West Germany for making implants.
He declined to reveal the purchase price of the impounded furnace ″for commercial reasons″ but said Consarc would be able to find another customer.
Consarc’s British sister operation produced other types of furnaces for Iraq that were used in the heat treatment of metals, Roberts said.