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The electrical charge state of threading dislocations in differently doped GaN is investigated by scanning surface potential microscopy in conjunction with tapping mode atomic force microscopy. The dislocations are found to be either negatively charged or neutral depending on the type of doping atoms in the layers, i.e., Mg acceptors, Si donors, or without intentional doping. The results are interpreted in terms of decoration of the dislocations with other defects resulting in a partial compensation of the core charge by the accumulated charges around. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.