Tougher EU sanctions loom for Iran

Germany, France and UK consider range of measures.

kouchner stresses 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
kouchner stresses 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
A German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that France, Britain and Germany - the EU-3 - are "considering further sanctions" against the Islamic Republic of Iran. She said that Teheran could "count on" a new round of penalties if the regime maintained its "uncompromising" position with respect to its refusal to suspend its nuclear uranium enrichment program. The Financial Times reported on Thursday that the EU-3's sanctions list targeted 34 Iranian institutions and 10 individuals with connections to Iran's atomic and biological weapons programs. The firms named in the Times report are Iran Insurance company, Iran Space Agency, Razim Institute for Serum and Vaccine and the construction company Khatam al-Anbia, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guards. The US has designated the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. Bank Tejarat, a significant Iranian commercial bank, along with five additional banks based in Teheran, is also named in the EU document. The Sharif University of Technology, too, appears on the sanctions list. Among the individuals listed is a commander of the paramilitary Basij force. When asked if the European Union planned to impose the intensified sanctions before the Iranian presidential elections in June, the German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman declined to comment. American and Israeli critics charge certain European countries, particularly Germany and Austria, with taking a "kid gloves" sanctions approach to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Germany is Iran's most important European trade partner, with trade totaling almost €4 billion in 2008. Austria, according to reports, is opposed to the EU applying additional economic pressure to modify Iran's recalcitrant behavior. In addition to Austria, the Times reported that Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Sweden were also rejecting new EU penalties against Iran. The Berlin Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told the Post that Germany would continue to pursue the double-track approach - a combination of carrots and sticks - to force Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program, which could be used to make atomic weapons. The spokeswoman suggested that the imposition of the new EU sanctions was linked to Iran's response to US President Barack Obama's offer to conduct direct talks with Teheran. Meanwhile, in a case ignored by the German media, Dan Castleman, chief assistant district attorney in New York City, told the Post that his office was investigating 10 new banks with alleged illegal ties to Iran. Castelman said the banks were located in "Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Far East." The District Attorney's office told the Post that the Italian bank Intesa was linked to Iranian financial transactions. The Manhattan district attorney's office prosecuted Lloyds TSB Bank in London for unlawfully enabling Iran to wire several billion dollars to the US. Lloyds paid a $350 million penalty for its financial misconduct. In the weekly Village Voice in New York, the veteran New Yorker Journalist Tom Robbins wrote last week, "The bank was helping its Iranian customers pay vendors with American dollars for such big-ticket items as oil-field equipment. Some $321m. was routed this way to New York banks, while several billion more passed through city institutions on its way to other recipients." According to Robbin's report, New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau asserted the Iranians were purchasing "heavy machinery for its oil industry" and "centrifuges" which could be used for its nuclear weapons program. Robbins wrote, "There was an e-mail message that popped up during the probe that showed that an Iranian firm was buying some 30,000 tons of tungsten, a material with many applications, including the construction of missiles."