BBC News | 27 July 2010 | 10:50 GMT
Russia has branded EU sanctions against Iran as "unacceptable", saying they undermine international efforts to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. The European Union on Monday adopted new sanctions targeting Iran’s foreign trade, banking and energy sectors. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman has condemned the "deeply regrettable" sanctions and vowed to continue its uranium enrichment work. The EU measures go beyond the fourth set of UN sanctions adopted on 9 June. They include a ban on dealing with Iranian banks and insurance companies, as well as steps to prevent investment in Tehran’s oil and gas sector.
Russia, one of six world powers negotiating with Iran, supported the UN sanctions last month, but has objected to extra unilateral measures imposed by the US and EU since then. "This not only undermines our joint efforts to seek a political and diplomatic settlement around Iran’s nuclear programme, but also shows disdain for the carefully calibrated and co-ordinated provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions," the foreign ministry said in a statement. The use of sanctions outside of the UN Security Council framework is "unacceptable," the statement said. Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to heed repeated Security Council ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment, the most controversial part of its nuclear programme.
Reuters | Tue Jul 6, 2010 | 3:30am IST
Iran complained on Monday that its planes had been denied fuel in Germany, Britain and the United Arab Emirates, and Washington said commercial firms were making the "right choices" by cutting business ties with Tehran. The Financial Times newspaper said oil major BP had stopped refueling Iranian jets. BP declined to confirm the report but said: "We fully comply with any international sanctions imposed in countries where we operate." Pressure is mounting on Iran over its nuclear programme and the United States has stepped up its push to isolate Tehran economically. On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed into law far-reaching sanctions that aim to squeeze the Islamic Republic’s fuel imports and deepen its international isolation.
"Since last week, our planes have been refused fuel at airports in Britain, Germany and UAE because of the sanctions imposed by America," Mehdi Aliyari, secretary of the Iranian Airlines Union, told Iran’s ISNA news agency. So far national carrier Iran Air and Mahan Airlines had been affected, he said. Washington has not spelled out whether its new sanctions are intended to require firms to refuse to fuel Iranian jets at airports in third countries, but U.S. officials made clear they were pleased with reports sanctions had begun to bite. "The costs of doing business with Iran, a country that is shirking its international obligations across the board and engaged in illicit activity, are rising," a senior Obama administration official said on Monday. "The international commercial sector is making the right choices. It’s now time for Iran to make the right choice — to fulfill its international obligations — that remains our primary objective," the official said.
A source in the UAE familiar with the issue said a private firm had refused to refuel an Iranian plane there, but the UAE had imposed no ban of its own. The source did not name the firm. "The UAE has nothing to do with it," the source said. "They (Iranian planes) are more than welcome." The source added: "It is just one company and there
Reuters | Tue Jun 22, 2010 | 12:35am IST
Iran has barred two U.N. nuclear inspectors from entering the Islamic Republic; increasing tension less than two weeks after Tehran was hit by new U.N. sanctions over its disputed atomic programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rejected Iran’s reasons for the ban and said it fully supported the inspectors, which Tehran has accused of reporting wrongly that some nuclear equipment was missing. "The IAEA has full confidence in the professionalism and impartiality of the inspectors concerned," spokesman Greg Webb said in an unusually blunt statement which described the IAEA’s report issued last month as "fully accurate". Iran, which has declared the two inspectors persona non grata, made clear it would still allow the Vienna-based U.N. watchdog to monitor its nuclear facilities, saying other experts could carry out the work. "Inspections are continuing without any interruption," Iran’s IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters in Vienna. "(But) we have to show more vigilance about the performance of the inspectors to protect the confidentiality," he said, criticising alleged leaks by inspectors to Western media.
Ties between Iran and the IAEA have become more strained since Yukiya Amano took over as head of the agency in December. The Japanese diplomat has taken a tougher approach on Iran than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, with the IAEA saying in a February report that Iran could be trying to develop a nuclear-armed missile now, and not just in the past. Iran accused Amano of issuing a misleading report. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Tehran had asked the IAEA to replace the two inspectors, the ISNA news agency reported. The IAEA has not confirmed whether this will be the case. Iran has the right to refuse certain inspectors under its agreement with the agency, which has around 200 people trained to conduct inspections in the Islamic state. Iran denied entry to a senior U.N. inspector in 2006.
But if Iran continues to refuse inspectors it could face diplomatic retaliation at the IAEA, whose 35-nation Board of Governors reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council in 2006 over its nuclear secrecy and lack of full cooperation with inspectors. "It is worrisome that Iran has taken this step, which is symptomatic of its longstanding practice of
BBC News | Friday, 18 June 2010 | 09:54 GMT
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has criticised the unilateral US and EU sanctions on Iran that go beyond those approved by the UN Security Council. He said Russia "did not agree" to any separate sanctions when it backed a joint UN resolution last week. Meanwhile, Pentagon chief Robert Gates said US intelligence showed that Iran could be able to attack Europe with "scores" of missiles by 2020. He added that Russia seemed to have a "schizophrenic" approach to Iran. Moscow viewed Iran as a threat, but still pursued commercial ties with it, he told a US senate hearing in Washington. Western powers suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons – which Tehran denies.
In an interview that ran on Thursday, the Russian leader criticised the EU and US for acting unilaterally. "We didn’t agree to this when we discussed the joint resolution at the UN," Mr Medvedev told the Wall Street Journal. Russia this month agreed to back a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran, following months of US-led diplomacy. "A couple of years ago, that would have been impossible," Mr Medvedev said. "We should act collectively. If we do, we will have the desired result." The fresh EU sanctions approved in Brussels on Thursday include a ban on investments and technology transfers to Iran’s key oil and gas industry – measures that go further than the latest UN sanctions. Only a day earlier, the US announced sanctions that ban Americans from trading with a number of firms and individuals, including Iran’s Post Bank, its defence minister and the air force and missile command of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
BBC News | Wednesday, 9 June 2010 | 16:34 GMT
The UN Security Council has voted in favour of fresh sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. The council voted 12 to two, with one abstention, in favour of a fourth round of sanctions, including tighter finance curbs and an expanded arms embargo. The US welcomed the move and said Iran must choose a "wiser course". But Iran’s envoy to the UN’s nuclear watchdog Ali Asghar Soltanieh vowed Tehran would continue its uranium enrichment activities. "Nothing will change," he said. The US and its allies fear Iran is secretly trying to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran insists its programme is aimed solely at peaceful energy use.
The Security Council resolution was opposed by Turkey and Brazil. They had earlier brokered a deal with Iran on uranium enrichment. Lebanon abstained. The new sanctions were passed after being watered down during negotiations with Russia and China on Tuesday. There are no crippling economic sanctions and there is no oil embargo. Those passed include prohibiting Iran from buying heavy weapons such as attack helicopters and missiles. They also toughen rules on financial transactions with Iranian banks and increase the number of Iranian individuals and companies that are targeted with asset freezes and travel bans. There is also a new framework of cargo inspections to detect and stop Iran’s acquisition of illicit materials.
Hailing the vote, the US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said: "The Security Council has risen to its responsibilities and now Iran should choose a wiser course." UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the decision sent a "strong statement of international resolve", increasing the pressure on Iran to meet its obligations. German counterpart Guido Westerwelle said this was "a clear signal from the international community that atomic weapons for Iran are not acceptable". However, both Turkey and Brazil spoke out in opposition, saying the deal they had brokered with Iran had not been given time.
Reuters | Wed May 26, 2010 | 8:22pm IST
Iran and Russia clashed on Wednesday over Kremlin support for draft U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic, in one of the worst rows between the two powers since the Cold War. The public clash indicates growing concern in Tehran after the United States said Russia and China, the closest thing Iran has to big-power allies, had agreed to a draft sanctions resolution to punish Iran over its nuclear programme. In unusually strong criticism of Russia, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad admonished the Kremlin for bowing to what he said was U.S. pressure to agree sanctions and bluntly warned President Dmitry Medvedev to be more cautious.
"If I were the Russian president, when making decisions about subjects related to a great nation (Iran) … I would act more cautiously, I would think more," Ahmadinejad said in a televised outdoor speech. He said that Russian support for the United States was unacceptable and that Moscow should rethink its decision or face being viewed as an enemy by Tehran. Within hours, the Kremlin’s top foreign policy adviser dismissed Ahmadinejad’s criticism, telling the Iranian president to refrain from "political demagoguery". "No one has ever managed to preserve one’s authority with political demagoguery. I am convinced, the thousand-year history of Iran itself is evidence of this," Sergei Prikhodko said in a statement read out by a Kremlin spokeswoman. "The Russian Federation is governed by its own long-term state interests. Our position is Russian: it reflects the interests of all the peoples of greater Russia and so it can be neither pro-American nor pro-Iranian," he said.
BBC News | Wednesday, 19 May 2010 | 11:28 GMT
The head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation has said newly-proposed sanctions on Iran will backfire. Ali Akbar Salehi said the sanctions would lead to the major world powers who back them being "discredited". He is the highest-ranking Iranian official to speak since the proposals were tabled at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday. The proposals come just a day after Tehran agreed to trade uranium for ready-enriched fuel for a reactor. "They won’t prevail and by pursuing the passing of a new resolution they are discrediting themselves in public opinion," said Mr Salehi, who is also Iran’s vice-president. Plans for a fourth set of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme were circulated among all 15 members of the Security Council on Tuesday. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the five veto-wielding permanent members had agreed on a "strong" draft resolution.
The new draft was drawn up a day after Iran, Brazil and Turkey signed a deal in which Iran agreed to send low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for enriched fuel for a research reactor. A similar deal was suggested last year by the five permanent members of the Security Council – the US, France, UK, China and Russia – plus Germany, who have been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme. They believe that Iran is trying to obtain a nuclear weapon, which Iran denies. Placing Iran’s nuclear material in a third country was intended to act as a confidence-building measure by the major world powers to prevent Iran producing more highly enriched, weapons-grade material.
BBC NEWS | 2010/04/14 | 23:18:56 GMT
The US military has warned that Iran could produce enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb in one year. But it would take another three to five years to actually produce a "deliverable weapon that is usable," a senior general told Congress. The warning came as Iran said it had produced its first significant batch of more highly-enriched uranium. Meanwhile, negotiations have resumed at the UN on a possible Iran sanctions resolution over its nuclear programme. Speaking to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, two military officials said if Iran’s leadership decided to, enough highly-enriched uranium could be produced in one year to build a single atomic weapon. Lt Gen Ronald Burgess, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant were producing low-enriched uranium and were not yet being used to produce the more highly-enriched uranium needed for weapons.
Gen James Cartwright told the committee that if Iran did move to producing the 90%-enriched uranium needed for a bomb, more time would be needed to actually build and test the weapon. "Experience says it is going to take you three to five years" to reach the stage of having a "deliverable weapon that is usable… something that can actually create a detonation, an explosion that would be considered a nuclear weapon." Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Wednesday that 5kg (11 lbs) of uranium had been enriched at Natanz from 3.5% to the 20% needed to fuel a research reactor in Tehran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the further enrichment to begin in February after talks on a UN-brokered proposal for Iran to send its uranium abroad for enrichment broke down.
Reuters | Wed Apr 14, 2010 | 10:06am IST
Prime Minister Manhoman Singh said on Tuesday he told US President Barack Obama that New Delhi opposed sanctions against Iran over its nuclear plans and such measures often only affected the poor. Speaking to reporters at the end of a two-day nuclear security summit in Washington, Singh said New Delhi opposed Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions but did not believe sanctions would be an effective tool.
"I said to him that as far as we are concerned, we don’t think sanctions really, I think, achieve their objective. Very often, the poor in the affected countries suffer more," Singh said when asked about his meeting with Obama on Sunday. "As far as the ruling establishment, they are not really affected by these sanctions in any meaningful way," he said.
The United States and its allies are pushing for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at producing atomic weapons and Iran says is purely for civilian uses such as generating power. However permanent U.N. Security Council member China is resisting sanctions against Tehran and other nations such as energy-hungry India also oppose them. "I also said to him (Obama) that as a signatory to the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), Iran is entitled to all the rights that members who have signed the NPT and are peaceful users of atomic energy, are entitled to," said Singh."
Reuters | Tue Apr 13, 2010 | 3:01pm IST
China said on Tuesday it wanted any UN Security Council action on Iran to promote a diplomatic way out of the nuclear standoff, edging closer to openly endorsing a resolution while hedging on sanctions. The remarks from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu followed a meeting on Monday between Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama in which, according to a US official, Hu agreed his government would help craft a new Security Council resolution pressing Iran over its nuclear activities. Jiang was not so blunt. But her comments appeared to leave scant doubt that Beijing accepts that fresh Security Council action over Iran is coming, even if China wants room to negotiate over the sanctions proposed by Western powers. "We believe that the Security Council’s relevant actions should be conducive to easing the situation and conducive to promoting a fitting solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations," Jiang told a news conference in Beijing, answering a question about the talks between Hu and Obama in Washington D.C.
"China supports a dual-track strategy and has always believed that dialogue and negotiations are the optimal channels for resolving the Iranian nuclear issue." The "dual-track" is diplomatic shorthand for offering Tehran economic and political incentives if it suspends its nuclear enrichment, and threats of sanctions if it refuses. China has close economic ties with Iran and has so far been reluctant to agree to tougher sanctions. Beijing is one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, each with the power to veto any proposed resolution. The five powers and Germany together make up the "P5+1" group that steers international talks on the Iran nuclear dispute.
Reuters | Mon Apr 12, 2010 | 12:22pm IST
China has made clear to the United States and four other world powers that it dislikes a proposed ban on new investments in Iran’s energy sector as part of a new round of U.N. sanctions, diplomats said on Sunday. After months of delay, China reluctantly agreed to join the other permanent members of the Security Council and Germany — a group often referred to as the "P5-plus-one" — in New York last week to begin drafting a sanctions resolution against Iran for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
But the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Chinese U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong indicated his displeasure at the proposals affecting Iran’s energy sector during the 3-hour meeting with his U.S., British, French, German and Russian counterparts on Thursday. "In general, the Chinese ambassador did not want to discuss specifics of the text," a diplomat said, referring to a U.S. sanctions proposal that is the basis of talks among the six. "The first meeting in New York was for an initial exchange of views on the U.S. draft," the diplomat added. Another envoy confirmed his comments. The Chinese did convey the impression that Beijing had problems with the proposals regarding Iran’s energy sector, a diplomat said.
BBC News | Friday, 2 April 2010 | 05:42 GMT
US President Barack Obama discussed the Iranian nuclear issue in an hour-long telephone call with China’s President Hu Jintao, the White House says. Mr Obama "underscored the importance of working together to ensure that Iran lives up to its international obligations," a US statement said. For his part, President Hu called for "healthy and stable" relations. The two leaders also discussed Taiwan and the importance of implementing G20 agreements to boost economic growth.
The call came a day after Iran’s top nuclear official, Saeed Jalili, arrived in China for talks, after which China’s foreign minister said he still hoped the issue could be resolved through negotiations. China, a veto-wielding UN Security Council member with strong ties to Iran, has in the past expressed reluctance to see new sanctions imposed. Beijing says it wants a peaceful outcome. Mr Obama, meanwhile, has said he hopes to have sanctions in place "within weeks". The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said on Thursday that China was ready to hold "serious" talks with Western powers on a new UN resolution. Western powers claim Iran seeks nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
BBC News | Tuesday, 30 March 2010 | 23:14 GMT
The US and France have vowed to work together to push for new UN sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme. After talks in Washington with French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, US President Barack Obama said he hoped to have the sanctions in place "within weeks". Mr Sarkozy promised "all necessary efforts to make sure Europe as a whole engaged in the sanctions regime". Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear arms capability. Tehran denies this. It says its atomic programme is entirely peaceful.
In a joint news conference with Mr Sarkozy at the White House, Mr Obama said he was not interested in waiting months for new sanctions. "My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring," he said. "I am interested in seeing that regime in place within weeks." For his part, President Sarkozy said Iran could not continue its "mad race" to try to complete its suspect nuclear programme. "The time has come to take decisions. Iran cannot continue its mad race," Mr Sarkozy said at the joint press conference. He said that he would work with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to get European backing for the sanctions regime. Mrs Merkel has suggested that if the UN Security Council cannot agree on the matter, Germany and other like-minded countries might pursue their own sanctions.
Tue Mar 9, 2010 5:21pm IST
Iran said on Tuesday it hoped China would not give in to pressure to agree to new sanctions that the United States and its allies hope to win U.N. approval for over its nuclear programme. Washington and other Western powers want China to approve a proposed U.N. resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran, a big source of oil for China, after Iran refused an offer to enrich its uranium abroad. Western powers have been looking for signs of a shift in the position of a country with veto power on the U.N. Security Council, but both Iran and China have given no ground so far. "China is a great country which enjoys enough power to pursue its own decisions independently without being pressured by America," foreign minister spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at a news conference in Tehran. "Of course our expectations from such a big country is the same … to pursue its foreign policies independently and just observe its own national interests," he said, citing Iran’s close relations with China.
Iran has turned to Chinese firms for investment in its energy and other sectors after Western firms turned away due to Iran’s political isolation and sanctions. China’s Foreign Minister said on Sunday new sanctions on Iran would not solve the stand-off over its nuclear programme, which Western powers fear will allow Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is only interested in electricity. "China upholds resolving
AP | MSN News | Vienna | Feb. 18, 2010 | 4:26 p.m. ET
The U.N. nuclear agency on Thursday said it was worried Iran may currently be working on making a nuclear warhead, suggesting for the first time that Tehran had either resumed such work or never stopped at the time U.S. intelligence thought it did. The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency appeared to put the U.N. nuclear monitor on the side of Germany, France, Britain and Israel. These nations and other U.S. allies have disputed the conclusions of a U.S. intelligence assessment published three years ago that said Tehran appeared to have suspended such work in 2003.
The U.S. assessment itself may be revised and is being looked at again by American intelligence agencies. While U.S. officials continue to say the 2007 conclusion was valid at the time, they have not ruled out the possibility that Tehran resumed such work sometime after that. Iran denies any interest in developing nuclear arms. But the confidential report, made available to The Associated Press, said Iran’s resistance to agency attempts to probe for signs of a nuclear cover-up “give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.” Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, told the official IRNA news agency that the report “verified the peaceful, nonmilitary nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.” Continue reading