Friday, June 18, 2010

EU, like US, expands sanctions against Iran over Russian objections

European Union leaders agreed tighter sanctions against Iran on Thursday, including measures to block oil and gas investment and curtail its refining and natural gas capability. The measures, which go substantially beyond those approved by the United Nations on June 10, are designed to pressure Tehran to return to talks on its uranium enrichment programme which Western powers believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons. 
Russia sharply criticized the EU and the United States for imposing additional sanctions on top of those that Moscow agreed to support in the U.N. Security Council last week."We are extremely disappointed that neither the United States nor the European Union is heeding our calls to refrain from such steps,"Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying. President Dmitry Medvedev (picture) in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, prior to a visit to the US, next week, also criticised the additional sanctions. Medvedev said in the interview that the United States had nothing to lose by imposing additional sanctions, as it has no ties with Iran, unlike Russia and China."We didn't agree to this when we discussed the joint resolution at the U.N.," Medvedev said. "We should act collectively. If we do, we will have the desired result."

The steps, which could come into force within weeks, will focus on trade, banking and insurance, transport including shipping and air cargo, and key sectors of the gas and oil industry.The energy sector sanctions will prohibit "new investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies, equipment and services related to these areas, in particular related to refining, liquefaction and liquefied natural gas technology," the heads of state and government said in their statement, issued during an EU summit in Brussels.The measures, drawn up in discussions over the past week, go beyond what some diplomats had foreseen and are likely to put strong financial pressure on Iran, which is the world's fifth largest crude oil exporter but has little refining capability.

The United States made its additional sanctions public one day earlier, on Wednesday. Timothy Geithner (picture), the US secretary of the treasury identified some 20 petroleum and petrochemical companies as being under Iranian government control, a move that puts them off limits to US businesses under a general trade embargo. It added Post Bank of Iran to the list of specially designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction as the 16th bank in Iran that the US has sought to cut off from the international financial system. The US action also aims to thwart Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines from skirting previous sanctions by renaming its vessels and shifting them to new front companies.
The treasury blacklisted five such companies, identified 27 new vessels blocked under the sanctions, and updated entries for 71 others that were renamed, reregistered and flying new flags.The new sanctions also take further aim at Iran's Revolutionary Guard, blacklisting its air force and missile commands over their activities in the development of ballistic missiles.
Earlier on Wednesday Iran announced that it will build four new reactors to expand its atomic research.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in a televised speech vowed to force the West to "sit at the negotiating table like a polite child" before agreeing to further talks. Iran will not make "one iota of concessions", he said, adding that he would punish world powers for the UN sanctions before announcing new conditions for negotiations. "You showed bad temper, reneged on your promise and again resorted to devilish manners," the Iranian leader said.

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