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German business forum accuses U.S. of trying to stimulate energy exports

BERLIN (Reuters) - Plans for tighter U.S. sanctions against Russia could harm European companies with energy interests in their giant eastern neighbour and appeared designed to stimulate U.S. energy exports to Europe, a German business forum said on Thursday.

At a Berlin press conference, the German Committee on East European Economic Relations said the possibility of European counter-sanctions against the U.S. should be kept open as "a very last option" if firms in Europe were affected.

The committee, a fierce critic of the sanctions passed earlier this week by U.S. lawmakers, revised upward to 20 percent its forecast for growth in German exports to Russia this year, from 10 percent growth expected previously.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Arno Schuetze)