Meridor: Int'l coalition the way forward on Iran

Intelligence minister praises new sanctions, says all options still on table; EU and US blacklist Iranian state-owned Bank Tejarat following passage of EU sanctions.

January 24, 2012 09:59
2 minute read.
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor [file]

Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor 311 (R). (photo credit: David W Cerny / Reuters)


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Building an international coalition to pressure Iran over its nuclear program is the best way to move forward, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor said Tuesday.

Speaking with Israel Radio, Meridor praised new sanctions imposed by the EU and US Monday, saying, "An international coalition is coming together, [which] understands both the importance and urgency of the situation."

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Iran rejects new EU sanctions as 'psychological warfare'
'Iran's economy in shambles from sanctions'

Following the EU's passage of the fresh sanctions Monday, the US Treasury announced its own new sanctions on Iranian state-owned Bank Tejarat, accused of involvement in nuclear proliferation. According to an EU document published on Tuesday, Tejarat is among the entities it is blacklisting to raise pressure on Tehran.

The EU said that Bank Tejarat had directly facilitated Iran's nuclear efforts, for example by helping in the movement last year of tens of millions of dollars in an effort to assist Iran's Atomic Energy Organization to acquire yellowcake uranium.

Bank Tejarat also has a history of helping designated Iranian banks circumvent international sanctions, the EU said.

By providing financial services to other banks, Bank Tejarat has also supported the activities of subsidiaries and subordinates of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian military organizations, the EU said.

US President Barack Obama said on Monday that the new sanctions underlined the strength of the international community's commitment to "addressing the serious threat presented by Iran's nuclear program."

"The United States will continue to impose new sanctions to increase the pressure on Iran," Obama said in a statement.

Israel also welcomed the EU’s decision Monday to significantly step up sanctions against Iran, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calling the moves a “step in the right direction.”

Speaking at a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu said that while it was too early to tell what the effect of the sanctions would be, “strong, quick pressure” on the Islamic Republic was needed.

For his part, Meridor emphasized that all options are still on the table, saying that international pressure on Iran "is the way we have to go." The question, he said, is whether Iran will find the cost high enough to change course.

A nuclear Iran, the minister said, would change the power dynamics in the region and could start arms race.

Europe’s ban on imports of Iranian crude oil and moves to freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank were “another strong step in the international effort to dramatically increase the pressure on Iran,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement.

As a bloc, the EU is Iran’s second-biggest customer for crude after China. In addition to the oil embargo and freeze on the Iranian central bank’s assets, the EU foreign ministers also banned trade in gold and other precious metals with the bank and state bodies.

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Iran on Monday rejected the new sanctions as “psychological warfare,” saying they would worsen the stand-off over the Islamic state’s nuclear program.

Reuters and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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