Austria welcomes banned Iranian for OPEC session

Tehran's oil minister and former Revolutionary Guards engineering arm is permitted to travel to Vienna despite EU sanctions.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
December 18, 2011 01:56
2 minute read.
Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi in Vienna

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader)

WASHINGTON – Rostam Qasemi, Iran’s petroleum minister, appeared last week at the 160th meeting of the OPEC conference in Vienna.

Though sanctioned by the EU, the US and Australia because he ran Khatam al-Anbia, the Revolutionary Guards’ main engineering arm, from 2007 until this past August, Austria permitted Qasemi to enter Vienna to preside over the global oil conference. Iran currently holds the chair of OPEC.

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Khatam al-Anbia is one of Iran’s largest contractors in industrial and development projects. In May, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran is working on construction plans for intermediate-range missile launch pads for its Venezuelan allies on the Paraguaná Peninsula of Venezuela. Khatam al-Anbia is reported to be actively assisting on the project.

“What is unheard of in the US and even on a EU level seems to be perfectly admissible and acceptable in Austria. It is not only wrong but also quite disconcerting considering that Vienna is hosting a [former] military commander who is under US and EU sanctions,” Dr. Diana Gregor, a Vienna-based expert on Austrian-Iranian relations, wrote The Jerusalem Post by email.

“Austria is – time and again – welcoming Iranian officials while other nations and entities are clearly rejecting them and stating their reservations vis-à-vis the Iranian regime,” Gregor, who has written about how to stop Iran’s bomb and has been at the forefront of drawing attention to Austria’s Iran policy, added.

“Austria should not offer a stage to representatives of the Iranian regime, because legitimizing the Iranian regime is sending the most inadequate signal. A travel ban seems about the right start with regard to effective measures that can quickly, easily and immediately be implement by Austria.”

Qasemi said in Vienna that, in the event that sanctions result in a reduction of Iranian oil exports, Saudi Arabia would not fill the gap.



The Saudi government declined to comment on Qasemi’s remarks.

At a press conference in Tehran this month, Qasemi said, “Our policy is [a] sustainable supply of oil to Europe... Iran is a major oil producer and any sanctions on our oil export would harm the global market,” Reuters reported.

He was skeptical about about the EU plan to clamp down on Iranian oil imports to Europe.

Samuel Laster, the editor-in-chief of the Vienna-based online Jewish news site Die Jüdische, wrote in an e-mail to the Post, “While other states seek to apply sanctions to Iran, Austria stays with its ‘Dialogue-Politics’ and allows the representative of Iran into Austria.”

Laster, who was born in Israel and served in the IDF, noted that the Austrian energy giant OMV was prepared to engage in multi-billion dollar deals with Iran and other dictatorships. He called Vienna’s policies “vague and opportunistic” and said they “sacrifice Western interests in the name of neutrality.”

That neutrality is a smoke screen for advancing Austrian business interests, particularly with the “mullahs in Iran,” Laster said.


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