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Germany will create a new cyber-warfare defence centre next year to fight off espionage attacks, the German interior ministry said.

“We plan to create a so-called ‘National Cyber-Defence Centre’ in 2011,” a spokesman told reporters on Monday. “It will work by bundling existing know-how in the area of cyber defence.”

As computer systems become more important to control essential services, from power grids to banking, computerised attacks are seen as becoming as important a part of nations’ arsenals as conventional or nuclear weaponry.

Britain announced a 650-million-pound programme last month, labelling cyber security a key priority despite broad cuts to government spending, including on defence.

Several Western security experts believe one computer worm, known as Stuxnet, may have been created by a national counterterrorism authority intent on crippling Iran’s nuclear programme by sabotaging the industrial control system at its atomic energy plant in Bushehr.

(Reporting by Rene Wagner and Christiaan Hetzner) Reuters