Lauder blasts Swiss for busting sanctions

Cosmetics mogul says natural gas contract "boils down to money" and saps Swiss of all neutrality.

lauder 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lauder 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ronald S. Lauder, president of the New York based-World Jewish Congress, blasted the Swiss government Wednesday over a major gas deal with Iran, saying it only served to highlight the weakness of current economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program. "The Swiss have lost any neutrality and have made a colossal mistake," Lauder said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post during a visit to Israel for an international conference marking the country's 60th anniversary. "The whole thing boils down to money," he said. Lauder's comments come less than two weeks after he meet with Swiss President Pascal Couchepin in a thus far fruitless effort to get the deal annulled. Lauder said he came away from the meeting disheartened over the chances that the deal would be voided, noting the Swiss president said it was up to the Swiss government to act, and adding that the Swiss prime minister was anti-Israel. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey traveled to Iran in March to sign a deal between the Swiss energy trading company EGL and state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company that is worth up to $42 billion. Lauder said the Swiss government was making a very lucrative deal for material gain, undermining any sanctions. "If they can make an extra billion or two in profits, then people are going to go around the sanctions," he said. He added that there needed to be more teeth to the sanctions to stop such deals. "There has to be a consequence for such activity," he said. Both the United States and Israel have condemned the Swiss gas deal with Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and has dismissed the Holocaust as a myth. The Swiss Foreign Ministry has said that the purchase of 5.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas does not violate United Nations sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. After the deal was made public, the Anti-Defamation League labeled Switzerland "the world's newest financier of terrorism." Despite the international sanctions in place against Iran, the Islamic Republic has repeatedly vowed to continue with its nuclear program in the face of international opposition.