EU, Rus­sia, Iran op­pose US sanc­tions

Wash­ing­ton faces re­tal­i­a­tion

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - REUTERS, SPUTNIK AND XIN­HUA MOS­COW, BRUS­SELS AND TEHRAN

RUS­SIA and Iran gave warn­ing that they were mov­ing to re­tal­i­ate against Wash­ing­ton af­ter the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives backed new US sanc­tions on Mos­cow, Tehran and North Korea.

Mean­while, the EU said the move, which was also crit­i­cised by Ger­many, might af­fect its en­ergy se­cu­rity and it stood ready to act too.

The lower house of the US Congress over­whelm­ingly voted on Tues­day to im­pose new sanc­tions on Mos­cow, Tehran and Py­ongyang and to force US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to ob­tain law­mak­ers’ per­mis­sion be­fore eas­ing any puni­tive mea­sures on Rus­sia.

“This is rather sad news from the point of view of Rus­sia-US ties,” said Dmitry Peskov, a Krem­lin spokesper­son. “We are talk­ing about an ex­tremely un­friendly act.”

He said Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin would de­cide if and how Mos­cow would re­tal­i­ate once the fresh sanc­tions be­came law, while Rus­sia’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter warned the move was tak­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions into un­charted wa­ters, killing hope of im­prov­ing them in the fu­ture.

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said yes­ter­day that his coun­try will give a nec­es­sary re­sponse to the new sanc­tions. Iran is used to these kinds of “hos­til­i­ties” and knows how to deal with them, Rouhani said in a cab­i­net meet­ing.

“Ira­ni­ans well know that they should re­sist and stand against their en­e­mies,” he said. “The Ira­ni­ans have faced nu­mer­ous pres­sures, sanc­tions and ac­cu­sa­tions by US politi­cians and their pro­pa­ganda ma­chine. The Amer­i­cans can­not tol­er­ate an in­de­pen­dent and in­flu­en­tial coun­try (like Iran) in this sen­si­tive re­gion,” he said.

Sanc­tions against Iran are mainly in re­sponse to Tehran’s grow­ing mis­sile pro­gramme.

As­so­ci­a­tion of Ger­man Cham­bers of Com­merce and In­dus­try head of for­eign re­la­tions depart­ment Volker Treier said: “If Ger­man com­pa­nies are no longer al­lowed to work on pipe­line projects, im­por­tant projects for se­cu­rity of sup­ply can come to a stand­still.”

The sanc­tions still need to be ap­proved by the Se­nate and by Trump him­self. But Bob Corker, chair­man of the US Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said yes­ter­day the mea­sure was likely to be­come law “very, very soon”.

Trump, who has found his pres­i­dency em­broiled in a row over his associates’ al­leged ties to Mos­cow and is on the de­fen­sive over ac­cu­sa­tions Mos­cow helped him win elec­tion last year, has said he is keen to try to mend ties with Rus­sia that are lan­guish­ing at a post-Cold War low.

But most White House watch­ers be­lieve Trump will re­luc­tantly sign off on the new sanc­tions, given deep sup­port for them among US law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing fel­low Repub­li­cans, and his de­sire to avoid be­ing ac­cused of be­ing soft on Mos­cow.

For its part, the EU frets the new US move could throw up ob­sta­cles to its firms do­ing busi­ness with Rus­sia and threaten the bloc’s en­ergy sup­ply lines.

The Krem­lin, which de­nies in­ter­fer­ing in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to the ben­e­fit of Trump – a charge that helped pro­pel the House ac­tion – says Wash­ing­ton is in the grip of anti-Rus­sian hys­te­ria.

Mos­cow has called the new sanc­tions “an ex­tremely un­friendly step” that would hurt bi­lat­eral ties and in­ter­na­tional trade.

Peskov com­plained of a blow against in­ter­na­tional law. But he said Mos­cow would wait un­til the sanc­tions be­came law be­fore fully analysing them and de­cid­ing how to re­spond.

Rus­sian Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Ryabkov told the In­ter­fax news agency that re­la­tions were now en­ter­ing “un­charted ter­ri­tory in a po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic sense”.

Ryabkov said the lat­est sanc­tions step in Congress left no room to im­prove re­la­tions in the near fu­ture.

He also made it clear that Mos­cow was grow­ing tired of show­ing re­straint over what it sees as a se­ries of diplo­matic slights.

PIC­TURE: IRA­NIAN PRES­I­DENCY OF­FICE VIA AP

Iran’s Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani speaks in a cab­i­net meet­ing in Tehran yes­ter­day.

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