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EU, Canada hit Iran with new sanctions

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 7:18 am

 The European Union and Canada slapped tough sanctions on Iran’s key energy sector in a bid to block its contested nuclear programme, and the United States said the punitive steps would bite.

European foreign ministers formally adopted the new measures Monday on the oil and gas industries, going beyond a fourth set of UN sanctions imposed over Iran’s refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. Canada then followed suit.

The moves, which follow similar sanctions imposed by the United States, are aimed at reviving moribund talks between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

“Today we sent out a powerful message to Iran, and that message is that their nuclear programme is a cause of serious and growing concern to us,” EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton told reporters.

“But our objective remains, as I have always said, to persuade Iranian leaders that their interest is served by a return to the table. Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” she said.

File photo shows Iranians working at the zirconium production plant, part of the nuclear facilities (UCF) in Isfahan, Iran.

Iran’s foreign ministry however said the sanctions were not “an effective tool” and would only serve to “complicate” its showdown with the West.

Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi said they would have no impact on oil production because European oil firms had “no presence” in Iran’s energy sector.

The EU measures include a ban on the sale of equipment, technology and services to Iran’s energy sector, hitting activities in refining, liquefied natural gas, exploration and production, diplomats said.

New investments in the energy sector are also banned.

Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of crude oil, but imports 40 percent of its fuel needs because it lacks enough refining capabilities to meet domestic demand.

The Iranian banking sector was also hit by restrictions, forcing any transactions over 40,000 euros (52,000 dollars) to be authorised by EU governments before they can go ahead.

The United States hailed the move, saying the steps “underscore the international community’s deepening concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: “We’ve already begun to see the impact of the sanctions as companies around the world refuse to do business with Iran, rather than to risk becoming involved in Iran’s nuclear program and other illicit activities.”

The identities of those hit by the new measures will be published in the official EU journal on Tuesday. Diplomats said 41 individuals and 22 government entities were concerned.

Canada’s sanctions take aim at Iran’s energy and banking sectors, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear activities, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said.

Canada will also bar all new investment in Iran’s energy industry, particularly crude oil refining and liquefied natural gas.

Ashton has exchanged letters with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in recent weeks in a bid to revive talks, and Tehran has indicated that the talks could resume in September.

The last high-level meeting between Iran and the six world powers was held in Geneva in October 2009 when the two sides agreed a nuclear fuel swap that has since stalled.

Western powers have demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment programme, fearing that Tehran would use the material to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its atomic programme is a peaceful drive to produce energy.

Iran’s actions “are bringing it closer and closer to possessing nuclear weapons which represents a threat,” said Cannon.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “Iran’s ongoing refusal to engage constructively on this issue leaves us no option but to implement these sanctions.”

Israel welcomed the sanctions and urged other countries to follow suit.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at the weekend Tehran was ready to hold immediate talks on a nuclear swap deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil in May.

World powers have given the cold shoulder to that deal, a counter-proposal to the October agreement.

Source: SGGP

Iran warns EU against imposing sanctions

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2010 at 11:16 am

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned the European Union (EU) on Sunday against imposing unilateral sanctions, saying Tehran would react swiftly and cause “remorse.”

“We do not welcome any tension or a new resolution. We seek logic and friendship,” Ahmadinejad said in remarks directed at the EU, which were translated into English by the Press TV channel.

“I should tell you that anyone who adopts a measure against the Iranian nation, such as inspection of our ships and planes, should know that Iran will react swiftly,” the hardliner said.

“Experience shows that such a reaction by the Iranian nation will cause remorse to it (the EU),” he added.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pictured in June 2010,

The EU will impose tough sanctions against Iran’s vital oil and gas industries on Monday in a bid to lure Tehran back to the negotiating table over its disputed nuclear programme.

EU leaders and the United States decided to impose their own penalties against the Iranian energy sector soon after the UN Security Council levied its fourth set of punitive measures on June 9.

The sanctions are part of a twin-track approach with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton seeking to revive moribund talks between Iran and six world powers — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Western powers have demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment programme, fearing that Tehran would use the material to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran says its atomic programme is a peaceful drive to produce energy.

The new EU sanctions reportedly include a ban on the sale of equipment, technology and services to Iran’s energy sector, hitting activities in refining, liquefied natural gas, exploration and production.

The EU will also ban dual-use goods that can be used for conventional weapons, and step up vigilance of Iranian banking, barring banks connected to Iran from opening branches.

Ahmadinejad warned that countries supporting the United States in its anti-Iran agenda will be considered as “hostile” towards the Islamic republic.

“Anyone who participates in the (anti-Iran) US scheme, we will consider them as hostile… and Iran will strongly respond to any threat” from them, the hardliner said.

Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency Iran’s relations with the West have deteriorated, said that the US and its aides are “worried by Iran’s progress.”

“By launching a psychological war, they think they can halt the Iranian nation’s progress,” he said, adding that imposing sanctions was also part of a move to halt the nation’s progress.

“They do not want Iran to reach the status it deserves,” he added.

Source: SGGP

Sanctions will draw strong physical response, DPRK says

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

The Democratic People of Republic Korea on Saturday said it would give a strong physical response to US sanctions, Pyongyang’s state media reported.

A foreign ministry spokesman attacked the United States for planning to hold joint naval drills with the Republic of Korea Sunday and for announcing new sanctions against the North over the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

“As the US has opted for military provocations and sanctions against us… we will strengthen our nuclear deterrence every possible way and take a strong physical response,” the Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

The spokesman, however, did not elaborate on what the physical response would be.


Source: SGGP

Clinton announces new sanctions against NKorea

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Wednesday that Washington will impose new sanctions on  North Korea in a bid to stem the regime’s illicit atomic ambitions.

Clinton, speaking at a joint news conference in Seoul after holding unprecedented security talks with U.S. and South Korean defense and military officials, said the sanctions were part of measures designed to rein in the regime’s nuclear activities by stamping out illegal moneymaking ventures used to fund the program.

“These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided priorities of their government,” Clinton said. “They are directed at the destabilizing, illicit, and provocative policies pursued by that government.”

U.S. Army Col. Kurt Taylor, right, briefs U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, 2nd right, at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, north of Seoul, South Korea Wednesday, July 21, 2010, in Seoul, South Korea.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed stiff sanctions on North Korea in recent years to punish the regime for defying the world body by testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and illegally selling arms and weapons.

With few allies and diminishing sources of aid, impoverished North Korea is believed to be turning to illicit ventures to raise much-needed cash. Pyongyang also walked away last year from a disarmament-for-aid pact with five other nations that had provided the country with fuel oil and other concessions.

Clinton, making a high-profile trip to South Korea with Defense Secretary Robert Gates just four months after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship, urged North Korea to turn away from its path toward continued isolation.

“From the beginning of the Obama Administration, we have made clear that there is a path open to the DPRK to achieve the security and international respect it seeks,” she said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“North Korea can cease its provocative behavior, halt its threats and belligerence towards its neighbors, take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and comply with international law,” Clinton said.

Source: SGGP

Obama signs toughest-ever US sanctions on Iran

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 6:29 am

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2010 (AFP) – President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law the toughest ever US sanctions on Iran, which he said would strike at Tehran’s capacity to finance its nuclear program and deepen its isolation.

US President Barack Obama arrives to sign the Iran Sanctions Bill in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, July 1, 2010. AFP

The measures, on top of new UN Security Council and European sanctions, aim to choke off Iran’s access to imports of refined petroleum products like gasoline and jet fuel and curb its access to the international banking system.

“With these sanctions — along with others — we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear programs,” Obama said at a White House ceremony, before signing the sanctions into law.

“We are showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences, and if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen.

“There should be no doubt — the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The US Senate and House of Representatives approved the legislation — which backers described as the toughest ever unilateral US sanctions against the Islamic republic — by crushing 99-0 and 408-8 margins last week.

The United States spent months assembling an international coalition for new United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran, which passed last month.

The measures, the fourth such set of UN penalties levied on Iran, are meant to punish Tehran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment work, the most sensitive part of its atomic drive.

In response, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday he would postpone nuclear talks as a “penalty” to world powers as a result of the latest UN sanctions.

The new US sanctions are effectively designed to force foreign firms to chose whether to do business with Iran or the United States.

The law shuts US markets to firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum products that the oil-rich nation must import to meet demand because of a weak domestic refining capability.

It also takes aim at firms that invest in Iran’s energy sector, including non-US companies that provide financing, insurance, or shipping services.

It could also see non-US banks doing business with certain blacklisted Iranian entities — including Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and several banks — shut out of the US financial system.

Some foreign companies have already begun to sever ties with Iran because of the new law.

But observers, though, have questioned how successful the new law, and similar measures being adopted in Europe, and by other close US allies will be, given that Iran has been looking for other sources of supplies.

Obama noted that Iran had spurned the offer of dialogue that he had made last year on coming to office.

“To date, Iran has chosen the path of defiance,” he said.

“That is why we have steadily built a broader and deeper coalition of nations to pressure the Iranian government.”

World powers led by Washington have accused the Islamic Republic of seeking to build nuclear weapons and are demanding it freeze its uranium enrichment activity, which can be a key step towards developing an atomic arsenal.

Iran denies its nuclear program has a military use.

“The government of Iran still has a choice,” Obama said in the prepared remarks.

“The door to diplomacy remains open. Iran can prove that its intentions are peaceful. It can meet its obligations under the (Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty) and achieve the security and prosperity worthy of a great nation.”

Source: SGGP

UN slaps fourth set of sanctions on Iran

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2010 at 10:43 am

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – World powers have slapped new military and financial sanctions on Iran aiming to rein in its suspect nuclear program, but stressed that the door remains open for talks.

A US-drafted resolution was adopted on Wednesday by 12 votes in favor in the 15-member Security Council, with Lebanon abstaining and Brazil and Turkey voting against.

UN Security Council members vote on broader military and financial sanctions on Iran at the UN headquarters in New York. AFP photo

Though swiftly hailed by co-sponsors Britain, France and the United States, the move drew an immediate, scornful reaction from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“These resolutions are not worth a dime for the Iranian nation,” said Ahmadinejad, who earlier threatened to suspend negotiations with six major powers if the sanctions were imposed.

He compared the world powers’ resolutions to “a used hanky which should be thrown in the dust bin.”

US President Barack Obama said Iran now faces the “toughest-ever” sanctions regime, sending “an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.”

But Obama, who has offered to resume dialogue with Tehran, stressed the sanctions did not spell an end to diplomatic overtures, urging Iran to “take a different and better path.”

The Iranian president was due in China for a visit likely marred by unusually strong criticism of Beijing by Iran’s atomic chief for the Asian giant’s support of the measure.

Despite the backing of Russia and China, it was one of the least supported of the four Iran sanctions resolutions adopted at the United Nations. It expands an arms embargo and bars the country from sensitive activities such as uranium mining.

The resolution also authorizes states to conduct high-sea inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items for Iran and adds 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.

Tehran maintains its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful civilian purposes, while the Western nations have charged that Iran is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Israel welcomed the new sanctions against the Jewish state’s arch-foe, but said more was needed to stop Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons, including “strong action” from individual countries.

The foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany stressed that their dual-track approach — pressure through sanctions alongside negotiations — remained in effect.

Western powers had initially pushed for crippling sanctions that would have notably targeted Iran’s oil industry but months of hard-nosed bargaining with Beijing and Moscow watered down the resolution to protect their substantial energy and economic interests in Iran.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said the resolution aimed to coax Iran back to the negotiating table and to fulfill its obligations as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“Sanctions can never fundamentally resolve,” he said, stressing the measures could be suspended or even lifted if Tehran suspends uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

Russia said a package of economic and energy incentives offered by six major powers to Iran in exchange for halting uranium enrichment remained on the table.

The sanctions “should not do undue damage” to the Iranian economy and the Iranian people, stressed Russian envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin.

Japan said it supported the fresh sanctions but still hoped for a diplomatic solution.

“It becomes important that the international community firmly implements the UN Security Council resolution and works towards a peaceful and diplomatic solution for the nuclear issue and demands Iran make a prudent decision,” Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said in a statement.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton’s office said the resolution “keeps the door open for continued engagement” between world powers and Iran.

“Sanctions are not the endgame or the final solution,” the EU statement said. “We hope that today’s decision will bring Iran to the negotiating table.”

The resolution was approved despite efforts by Brazil and Turkey to head off the measures and promote a nuclear fuel swap deal they reached with Tehran last month, which had been coolly received by the six major powers.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva later slammed the new sanctions as a “Pyrrhic victory” that comes with a massive burden to the victors and said the move “weakened the UN Security Council.”

Lebanon had earlier indicated it could not support the resolution due to domestic political considerations, a reference to the presence of the powerful, Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the Lebanese government.

Source: SGGP

UN to vote on new Iran sanctions Wednesday

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2010 at 2:04 pm

 The UN Security Council is set to slap new sanctions on Iran Wednesday for refusing to rein in its suspect nuclear program, despite warnings from Tehran it will break off talks on the standoff.

After months of behind-the-scenes haggling, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, who chairs the 15-member council this month, said a draft resolution on fresh sanctions would go to a vote on Wednesday at 10:00 am (1400 GMT).

“I think it is fair (to say) that these are the most significant sanctions that Iran has ever faced,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters during a visit to Ecuador.

The resolution’s six co-sponsors — the five council permanent members Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States along with Germany — say they have more than the nine votes needed to adopt the text.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — pictured at the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Istanbul — has said his country will reject talks on its nuclear programme if it is slapped with new UN sanctions

It would be the fourth set of UN sanctions imposed on Iran in recent years, as the international community has struggled — and failed — to curb the Islamic republic’s nuclear ambitions.

Iran insists its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful civilian purposes, while the Western nations have led accusations that it is seeking to develop an atomic weapon.

According to the US-drafted text, the resolution would broaden three earlier sets of sanctions slapped on Iran, the last of which adopted on March 3, 2008.

The new resolution:

— Would expand an arms embargo and measures against Iran’s banking sector and ban it from sensitive overseas activities like uranium mining;

— Authorize states to conduct high-sea inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items from or to Iran;

— Add 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions, as well as Javad Rahiqi, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran’s Isfahan nuclear technology center.

According to the draft text, 22 of the entities are linked to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, 15 are “owned, controlled, or acting on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” and three are controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has angrily warned that negotiations with the six major powers on his country’s suspect nuclear program would be terminated if the new sanctions are imposed.

“I have said that the US government and its allies are mistaken if they think they can brandish the stick of resolution and then sit down to talk with us, such a thing will not happen,” Ahmadinejad said in Istanbul.

A Turkish diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity that Ankara was trying to persuade Iran not to abandon talks if sanctions were imposed.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose country has decided to back the UN moves, said however the sanctions should not be extreme.

“Our point of view is that these decisions should not be excessive and should not put the Iranian people in a complicated position which would put up barriers on the path to peaceful nuclear energy,” Putin was quoted by Russia’s ITAR-TASS as saying.

US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said Washington still hoped “to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program and negotiate constructively and in earnest with the international community.”

“We remain committed to the dual-track approach” of pressure through sanctions coupled with negotiations, she added.

Ahmadinejad however urged Western powers not to dismiss a Turkish-Brazilian nuclear fuel swap brokered last month which he described as an opportunity that should be “put to good use.”

“Opportunities will not be repeated,” he warned on the sidelines of a regional meeting.

Brazil and Turkey have pushed for an open debate in the Security Council on the nuclear standoff with Iran before the vote to make their case that sanctions will be counterproductive.

Under the deal they brokered, Iran agreed to ship 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey in return for high-enriched uranium fuel for a Tehran reactor that would be supplied later by Russia and France.

But the six world powers which have been trying to clip Iran’s nuclear ambitions only greeted the deal coolly.

In a nod to Brazil and Turkey, the draft UN text does note the efforts of the two countries “toward an agreement with Iran on the Tehran Research Reactor that could serve as a confidence-building measure.”

It remained unclear whether Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon will vote against the new UN resolution or abstain.

Source: SGGP

US pushes tough Iran sanctions draft at UN

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2010 at 5:05 am

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (centre) alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen (left) and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (right) in Washington, DC.

The United States has introduced a draft resolution at the UN to slap tough new sanctions on Iran, fast on the heels of what it cast as Iran’s bid to stall efforts by signing a nuclear swap deal.

The draft resolution would expand an arms embargo and measures against Iran’s banking sector and ban it from sensitive overseas activities like uranium mining and developing ballistic missiles, a US official said.

“The resolution would establish a comprehensive new framework for cargo inspections, both in states’ ports and on the high seas,” the official told journalists on condition of anonymity.

The draft, which was being debated by the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, had received the blessing of all the veto-wielding permanent members, including the usual standouts China and Russia, the US said.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

“This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington.

She was referring to Monday’s deal, brokered by emerging powers Brazil and Turkey, in which Tehran agreed to swap much of its stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU) to Turkey in exchange for fuel for a research reactor.

Beijing’s apparent backing of a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear activities came despite its earlier support for the swap deal.

“We attach importance to and support this agreement,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

Western powers fear that Iran‘s atomic program is a cover for a nuclear weapons drive. Tehran denies this, saying the program is aimed at peaceful energy use, which it insists it has the right to pursue.

Clinton reiterated that Washington had raised “a number of unanswered questions” about the tripartite deal struck on Monday, but welcomed what she called the “sincere efforts of both Turkey and Brazil.”

For Washington, the core issue was that Iran intended to continue enriching uranium.

US President Barack Obama meanwhile met for 90 minutes with Jewish lawmakers in Congress to discuss the draft resolution and brief them on the Iran nuclear issue, as well as on Israel’s security situation and prospects for Mideast peace.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran and it was unclear what effect the draft resolution would have on Monday’s accord which commits Iran to deposit 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of LEU in Turkey in return for fuel for a Tehran research reactor.

Turkey and Brazil are both non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim insisted in Brasilia that the new agreement “creates an opportunity for a peaceful negotiated settlement.”

Amorim did not discuss the US move explicitly but warned that ignoring the new situation “could lead people to grave situations, and trigger escalating reactions.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the world community on Tuesday to support the deal, which his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, warned could be spoiled by talk of sanctions.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country along with Britain rounds out the Security Council‘s permanent membership, said that while it was a “positive step,” the deal must be accompanied by a halt of Iran’s uranium enrichment.

Tehran said Tuesday that it expects a swift response from world powers on the accord, which a government-owned newspaper boasted had “checkmated” US efforts for new sanctions.

Iran would notify the International Atomic Energy Agency of the accord “in writing, through the usual channels, within a week,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

In October, the Vienna Group made an offer for Iran to ship most of its LEU out of the country in return for higher grade reactor fuel to be supplied by Russia and France.

Iran stalled on the deal, insisting it wanted a simultaneous swap on its own soil, a proposal world powers rejected.

Tehran, already under three sets of UN sanctions over its defiant nuclear drive, touted the agreement as a goodwill gesture that paves the way for a resumption of talks with world powers.

Iran’s enemy Israel — the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state — is weighing a formal response to the deal, although a senior official accused Iran of trickery shortly after it was signed.

Source: SGGP

China to OK new UN sanctions against Iran: Biden

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 at 8:46 am

 US Vice President Joe Biden has said that China will sign on to new UN sanctions on Iran, and predicted new measures to punish Tehran’s nuclear program could be agreed by the end of this month.

Biden also said in an interview with the ABC program “The View” that Israel would not mount a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities without the permission of the United States.

Washington has been trying to persuade key Security Council member China for months to accept toughened sanctions. Beijing has agreed to join talks at the UN on a toughened regime, but has yet to make its position clear.

US Vice President Joe Biden has said that China will agree to a new round of UN sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear activities, despite having long held out against the move.

But Biden said: “China will agree to sanctions,” on “The View” an ABC television show.

“This is the first time the entire world is unified that Iran is out of bounds… they are more isolated than they’ve ever been, with their own people and within the region.”

Biden also gave a more explicit timeline on Iran sanctions than Washington has previously offered.

“I believe you’ll see a sanctions regime coming out by the end of this month, the beginning of next month.”

China has invested heavily in Iran’s energy sector and filled the vacuum left by Western firms that have pulled out in the face of US sanctions and political pressure from US allies against companies doing business with Tehran.

Some of President Barack Obama‘s critics have argued however that the price for China’s support will be watering down the sanctions, which will be far from the “crippling” set of measures that the Obama administration once sought.

Israel and the West accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of what Tehran insists is an energy program for civilian, not military, purposes.

Hopes that China would join sanctions against Iran rose last week after Obama met Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of a global nuclear summit in Washington.

Hu’s entourage said after the talks that Washington and Beijing shared the “same overall goal” on Iran, after months of US efforts to secure Chinese cooperation on “biting” new sanctions.

Biden also used the appearance on “The View” to state that Israel, which has tense ties with the Obama White House, and which considers Iran an existential threat, would not attack the Islamic republic without US permission.

“They’re not going to do that,” Biden said.

“They’ve agreed the next step is the step we — the president of the United States — has initiated in conjunction with the European powers, the NATO powers, with what they call the P5+1.”

The P5+1 groups the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.

“We’re going to continue to keep the pressure on Iran,” Biden vowed.

“They are not a monolith,” he said about Iran. “They are a fragile government and they’re some distance from having that capacity.”

He also insisted that President Barack Obama‘s administration would be successful in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“The president said our intention is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear capacity,” Biden said. “We believe we’ll be able to do that.”

The package of new sanctions, already endorsed by Washington’s European allies, would include a full arms embargo, a ban on new investments in Iran’s energy sector, restrictions on shipping and finance, and sanctions targeting the business interests of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, sources said.

Diplomats say they expect weeks of hard-nosed bargaining before a text — likely to be toned down to make it palatable to the Chinese and the Russians — can be brought to a vote by the full 15-member Security Council.

Source: SGGP

Obama wants Iran sanctions within ‘weeks’

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 at 6:50 am

US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he wanted tough new UN sanctions imposed on Iran within “weeks” as visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy blasted Tehran’s “mad” nuclear race.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, speaks as President Barack Obama, right, listens, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 30, 2010. (AFP Photo)

But Obama admitted that key world powers had “not yet” closed wide gaps on the specifics of the biting new measures, as he and Sarkozy made an apparently coordinated effort to up pressure on China and Russia for action.

“My hope is that we are going to get this done this spring,” Obama said, warning, as he faces rising domestic pressure on the issue, that he was not interested in waiting months for the new United Nations measures to be imposed.

“I am interested in seeing that regime in place within weeks,” Obama said during a joint press conference with Sarkozy which saw both leaders go out of their way to profess US-French friendship.

Sarkozy indicated after his closed Oval Office talks with Obama that months of diplomacy to prepare the way for sanctions must now come to fruition.

“The time has come to take decisions. Iran cannot continue its mad race,” Sarkozy said, adding that Europe would stand united in the push for sanctions.

The joint presidential pressure came as G8 foreign ministers meeting in Canada urged “in the strongest possible terms” that Iran cooperate with five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton predicted the next few weeks would see “intense negotiation” in the Security Council on Iran, which the West suspects of developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

The Obama administration has spent months trying to convince China, which has been reluctant to embrace tough sanctions on Iran, to join the international effort.

Russia has been more amenable, but it is still unclear whether Moscow will embrace the “biting” measures envisaged by Washington.

“Do we have unanimity in the international community? Not yet. And that’s something that we have to work on,” Obama said, admitting that Iran was a major oil producer and had a plethora of commercial partners.

Sarkozy and Obama said their talks also covered a long list of international issues, including Afghanistan, US peace efforts in the Middle East and the global economic recovery.

The French leader said it was “great news” that the Obama administration had now made financial reform its top priority.

The issue has provoked friction between Washington and Europe, with the United States less willing to call for stringent efforts to regulate global hedge funds than some key leaders in Europe.

Obama also promised that a Pentagon tender for a new airborne tanker for the US air force would be “free and fair.”

Sarkozy said he trusted Obama, and that the European aerospace giant EADS would resubmit a bid, following a row over claims the United States was favoring US-based Boeing for the contract.

Both leaders sought to scotch rumors of bad chemistry between them, calling one another by their first names, ahead of an intimate dinner hosted by the Obamas for Sarkozy and ex-supermodel wife Carla Bruni.

Obama called Sarkozy “my dear friend,” while Sarkozy appeared eager to end years of US-French tensions.

“There may be disagreements, but never for the wrong reasons. And as we are very transparent on both sides, there’s confidence, there’s trust,” he said before the two presidents walked out of the press conference with hands over each other’s shoulders.

The Sarkozys took time to sample the culinary delights of the US capital, stopping in at famed restaurant “Ben’s Chili Bowl,” which Obama has also visited, to eat half-smoke hot dogs.

The two leaders met at divergent moments of their political fortunes.

Sarkozy was forced to backtrack on some of his signature reforms, and suffered a humiliation in recent regional elections.

But Obama is reveling in his historic health reform law and clinched a landmark nuclear arms reduction deal with Russia last week.

The private dinner between the couples marks the first time a foreign leader has dined with the Obamas in their private residence at the White House and is seen as a fence-mending exercise after Obama bowed out of a European summit.

“You invite an important head of state to a state dinner, but a friend you invite to your home,” said one western diplomat.

But the White House denied it was going out of its way to satisfy Sarkozy with presidential trappings.

“It doesn’t seem totally out of the ordinary,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

The French couple left the White House late Tuesday after their two-hour dinner and headed to Andrews Air Force base where they caught their flight back to Paris.


Source: SGGP