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Iran Condemns New EU Sanctions

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the news sanctions would have "negative consequences" for the EU and would not bring Iran back to the negotiating table.
Tehran says the new sanctions levied upon it by the European Union will make it harder to solve the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

"These sanctions will neither help resumption of negotiations nor change the will of the Iranian nation to pursue its legitimate nuclear rights," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

He added "Iran considers the latest EU move as another step toward enmity with the Iranian nations." He also warned it would have a "negative consequence for the initiators of these sanctions."

On July 26, EU ministers in Brussels approved a list of measures intended to give bite to the UN-approved sanctions regime on Iran.

The measures take advantage of the EU's position as Iran's largest foreign trading partner to apply the strongest financial leverage yet on Tehran to give up uranium enrichment and other controversial aspects of its nuclear program.

"Of course, it's never good for export nations when such sanctions have to be decided. It's not good for us either," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said as the measures were announced.

"But it would be much worse to allow Iran to get nuclear weapons," he added. "Those who only speak about costs resulting from the sanctions don't look far enough. One must also consider the costs, which would be, by far, more dramatic which would occur if Iran got nuclear weapons."

Targeting Energy, Finance

Most directly targeted are Iran's energy sector and its shipping industry.

The new sanctions forbid the sale and supply or transfer of energy equipment and technology used by Iran for refining, liquefying natural gas, exploration, and production.

Experts predict that without new Western technology, Iran's energy sector will continue to decline in productivity even while the sanctions regime allows Tehran to continue exporting energy to Europe.

The sanctions also forbid European companies from insuring or reinsuring Iranian state businesses, including its shipping industry. That will notably make it more difficult for Iran to import gasoline and other consumer fuel products.

Currently, Iran imports 40 percent of the fuel it needs because it lacks enough refining capabilities to meet domestic demand.

Additional sanctions require EU member states to monitor Iranian banks operating in Europe, including requiring governmental authorization for any financial transfers exceeding 40,000 euros ($52,000).

And, European airports will bar any cargo flights to or from Iran except those in which limited amounts of cargo are carried on passenger planes.

Shortly after the new EU measures were announced on July 26, Canada followed suit with similar measures barring new investment in Iran's energy sector.

For its part, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement today blasting the new EU sanctions. Moscow said it strongly opposed unilateral or collective sanctions against Iran that go beyond the current UN Security Council sanctions.

Bring Iran Back To The Table

The question now is whether the sanctions will force Iran back to the nuclear bargaining table as intended.

Iran's immediate condemnation of the sanctions might suggest there is little prospect for new dialogue.

But Iran's broadside today contrasts with Tehran's own last-minute efforts to signal negotiation was still possible as the sanctions were announced.

Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency said on July 26 that Tehran was ready for "prompt talks without any preconditions" if the international community wanted to resume discussion of a stalled nuclear fuel-swap deal.

That deal, brokered by Turkey and Brazil, centers on Iran giving up large amounts of its already enriched uranium in exchange for nuclear fuel Tehran needs to produce medical isotopes.

The deal broke down earlier this year over Western objections that it did not require Tehran to stop uranium enrichment. It stalled completely after the United Nations instead passed in June a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran.

Yet another sign that negotiations could yet resume is Iran's statement earlier this month that talks might begin in September. That came after EU foreign-affairs chief Catherine Ashton sent a letter to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Said Jalili.

But the larger question of whether Iran would agree in any new talks to stop its uranium-enrichment program -- or whether it would simply stick to its previous position of focusing only on a fuel swap -- remains to be answered.

It is in hopes of pushing Iran into stopping uranium enrichment as the essential part of any new deal that the EU is now piling on economic pressure. The new sanctions legally come into force starting on July 27.

compiled from agency reports