Sanctions no obstacle as Iranians get their iPads

Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:13pm EST
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By Reza Derakhshi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Although there were no lines of eager customers forming outside computer stores in Tehran on the day that Apple's iPad was introduced to the world last year, the tablet computer -- the newest global must-have gadget -- has quietly appeared in Iranian shops, despite tightened sanctions.

On a recent winter's evening, the swank Paitakht Computer Center in northern Tehran was packed with young, technology-savvy Iranians looking for the latest digital products for work or fun.

And products made by Apple -- the technology giant from a country that Iran labels as the ''Great Satan'' and that has led the drive to isolate Iran economically - were attracting more shoppers than anything else in the multistory electronics emporium.

"It's so amazing that you can find the latest American-made high-tech products with a cheap price in a country under heavy U.S. sanctions," said Mahnoush Tavakkoli, one of the shoppers. Tavakkoli, 36, had just purchased an iPad.

In Tehran, the price of an iPad ranges from $680 to $1,100, depending on the model. The minimum retail price for the latest iPhone 4 is $880. Those prices are similar to what shoppers would pay for similar goods in Britain, for example.

Washington imposed a ban on most trade between the United States and Iran as long ago as 1979, after the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage drama.

U.S. companies were barred from dealing with Iran, particularly in oil and gas projects. Goods or services from Iran, except for certain foodstuffs and carpets, cannot be imported into the United States.

Since 2006, Iran has come under tighter economic and financial sanctions, imposed by the U.N. Security Council and intended to curb a nuclear program that some countries maintain is being used to develop atomic weapons, a charge that Iran denies.   Continued...

<p>A woman uses an iMac computer in a shop at a mobile and computer shopping complex in northern Tehran January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi</p>