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German firm's CEO removed over WikiLeaks cable

A German company involved in the building of European navigation system Galileo says it has removed its chief executive after he was quoted in a cable obtained by WikiLeaks as describing the project to a U.S. official as "a stupid idea."

OHB-System AG said late Monday that the supervisory board decided to revoke Berry Smutny's appointment as CEO. It said the firm "saw no alternative to this decision in order to effectively avert any further damage to the company."

The company has previously said that Smutny denied making the statements attributed to him in U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that were published last week in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

OHB-System last year won a €566 million ($754 million) contract to build the first 14 satellites for Galileo, Europe's planned rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS.

Galileo claims it will be technologically superior to the U.S. Global Positioning System because it will provide more accurate locations for cars, ships and people using navigation devices.

However, the cable published by Aftenposten quoted Smutny as saying during a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin: "I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests."

In a statement on Friday, OHB-System supervisory board chief Manfred Fuchs said Smutny "declared in a statutory oath that he did not make the statements attributed to him."

Fuchs added that the company "expressly repudiates" all the statements attributed to Smutny and "affirms its full and complete commitment" to Galileo.

Shares of OHB-System's parent company, OHB Technology AG, were up 0.6 percent in Frankfurt trading Tuesday at €15.70.

OHB Technology's chief executive, Marco Fuchs, additionally will take on the position of OHB-System CEO "until further notice" and will share Smutny's duties with two board members, the company said.