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Tehran on Thursday accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of being influenced by "Zionist circles" in a reference to Israel after her remarks that a nuclear bomb in Iran's hands would not be acceptable, state media reported.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Merkel's remarks were against the national interests of Germany.

Merkel said Tuesday in Washington that "zero tolerance needs to be shown when there is a risk of weapons of mass destruction falling, for example, into the hands of Iran."

The German chancellor stressed that security for Israel was non-negotiable for her. "Whoever threatens Israel also threatens us," she said, speaking before the U.S.Congress.

Iran has said its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, but the West suspects Iran could use its nuclear know-how for producing nuclear weapons and use them against its archfoe Israel.

Former Iranian minister Ayatollah Dr. Mehdi Haeri Khorshidi, who fled to Germany in 1986 and remained there until 2003, told a Haifa conference last year that Germany has stepped up its commerce with Iran, in blatant disregard of its nuclear program.

The German government has meanwhile increased pressure on companies to curb business with Iran.

German exports to Iran rose 10 percent in 2008, prompting Israel's ambassador to Berlin to say the German authorities are "not doing enough" to keep Tehran isolated until it abandons its alleged efforts to develop nuclear arms.

Germany's Federal Statistical Office released data showing the increase occured over the first three quarters of 2008. Germany's exports to Iran were expected to total 4 billion euros this year, close to the record it set in 2004 and 2005.

During the first seven months of 2008, the German government approved 1,926 transactions with Iran, a 63 percent increase from the year before. This has further cemented Germany's position as Iran's largest trade partner.

When asked about the increase in exports, the German treasury replied that it is due to increased metal prices, and noted that steel is up 17 percent in Europe.

However, export data show that metals make up only a small part of the increase. Another explanation offered by the German government is that the sanctions on Iran prohibit it from launching large new projects, which means the Iranians are more dependent on spare parts to maintain existing infrastructure.

"As a result of the tightening sanctions on Iran, our office expects the volume of our exports to Iran to decrease in the future," a spokesman for the treasury said.