Austria’s ambassador to Tehran, and the vice president of the country’s chamber of commerce, have expressed sharp criticism of tough sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear program.

However, the Austrian Foreign Ministry rejected on Tuesday Iranian news reports claiming the Central European country was always critical of sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic.

According to a report by Iran’s state-controlled Fars News last month, Austria’s ambassador to Iran, Friedrich Stift, said his country never showed interest in pushing for sanctions.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Vienna told The Jerusalem Post during a telephone interview on Tuesday that “Austria has always supported sanctions and the ambassador represents this position.”

This “means support for the sanctions against the nuclear program, Iran’s regime, and human rights violations,” the spokesman added. But Stift is “unhappy when sanctions affect ordinary people in Iran.”

The spokesman cited the “freezing of [Iran] accounts” as one example of Austria’s support for the sanctions regime.

Austria-Iranian economic relations have traditionally been robust. Ali Naghi Khamoushi, a former head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, said, “Austria is for us the gateway to the European Union.”

Iran’s regime-controlled IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday that Stift praised the 150-year history of Tehran-Vienna ties, adding that Iran is a significant economic partner of Austria. “Stift is on Kish Island [in the Persian Gulf] to attend an international exhibition on tourism which would end its work on January 31,” IRNA reported.

Austrian oil and gas giant OMV sent a representative to a meeting in December with Iran’s oil minister in Vienna.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to revive investment in Iran’s oil fields.

Early last month, the Austrian Chamber of Commerce said representatives of 10 companies, and the chamber’s president, were slated to visit Iran.

Rail technology firms Plasser & Theurer and AVL, high-rise engineering firm Doka, engineering consultants ILF and cable car maker Doppelmayr were listed as participants, the Austrian daily Die Presse reported.

Austrian exports to Iran totaled $298 million in 2012, according to the Chamber of Commerce.

Richard Schenz, vice president of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, told the Kurier daily earlier this month that “there is no reason to comply with US laws” regarding Iran sanctions.” Schenz was in Iran in December to boost Austrian- Iranian trade.

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