BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has fallen ill and therefore canceled a trip to Iran where he was expected to co-chair an economic conference with his Iranian counterpart, a German government official said on Sunday.
German industry has been hoping for a surge in exports to Iran after international sanctions were lifted in January in return for the Islamic Republic complying with a deal to curb its nuclear program.
The government official did not give further details on Gabriel's illness. No new date for a visit had been fixed, the official said.
The minister had planned to co-chair an economic conference with Iranian counterpart Ali Tayyebnia in Tehran on Tuesday, and German companies had seen the event as a potential catalyst for increasing exports to Iran to as much 5 billion euros per year, double their current worth.
But the head of the German banking association on Friday dampened such expectations, saying it would take some time to restore banks' financial ties with Iran due to old debt still owed to Berlin and general transparency concerns.
Iran owes Germany about 500 million euros ($569 million) under so-called Hermes covers, a German government arrangement that protects German companies if foreign debtors fail to pay.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)