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US senators raise concern about Huawei-Sprint deal

* Huawei’s dealings in Iran, ties to PLA at issue

* U.S. Treasury Department, Sprint decline comment

* Huawei decries “old mischaracterizations”

WASHINGTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A group of U.S. Republican lawmakers have raised national security concerns about China-based Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's [HWT.UL] bid to supply equipment to Sprint Nextel Corp S.N due to the company's dealings with Iran and the Chinese military.

The concerns by eight Republican senators focus on whether Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper should bar Huawei from doing business with Sprint, which supplies equipment to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies, according to a letter obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.

“We are concerned that Huawei’s position as a supplier of Sprint Nextel could create substantial risk for U.S. companies and possibly undermine U.S. national security,” they wrote.

The letter, dated Aug. 18, was signed by Christopher Bond, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr, Susan Collins, James Inhofe, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby.

A Treasury Department spokesman said they were reviewing the letter, but declined to comment on any talks the department might be having with Huawei.

“Generally speaking, however, we welcome foreign investment, which helps create significant economic benefits and millions of good-paying jobs for American workers,” Treasury spokesman Matthew Anderson said.

The senators are concerned that Huawei sold communications technology to Saddam Hussein, the Taliban and Iran and its military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC).

They said a Chinese company with a big role in Iran’s economy and close ties to the IRGC should not be allowed to do business in the United States.

What they called “most troubling” is that Huawei Chief Executive Officer Ren Zhengfei was a member of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“Huawei has a concerning history,” they said.

One of their top concerns is the ability of Western countries to thwart cyber attacks from China and the ability of remote hacking involving Huawei.

“Given China’s well documented focus on developing cyber warfare capabilities, Huawei’s ties to the PLA have aroused concern in a number of other nations in which it does business,” the senators said.

Huawei denied any connection to the Chinese military or government and said it was “disappointed to learn that old mischaracterizations about the company still linger.”

“The truth is Huawei is an employee-owned private company ... (that) complies with all the laws, regulations and related trade compliance regulations established by the UN and all the countries where we operate including the U.S.” the company said in a statement.

“This also applies to Iran, where our business operation is similar to other western vendors in the market.”

A spokesman for Sprint said they had no comment on the concerns raised by the Republican senators. (Additional reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Andre Grenon)

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