Iran: mooted EU sanc­tions hailed by US

Macron mulls ac­tion af­ter rocket

The Star Late Edition - - WORLD -

ANY MOVE by the EU to im­pose new sanc­tions on Iran over its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gramme and al­leged in­volve­ment in Mid­dle East con­flicts would be “in­ter­est­ing and help­ful”, a US ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who has taken a more hawk­ish line on Iran than pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama, has said Tehran’s mis­sile pro­gramme should be curbed and wants to pun­ish Tehran over its role in Ye­men and Syria.

Trump has also dealt a blow to an in­ter­na­tional 2015 deal on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme by dis­avow­ing Iran’s com­pli­ance with its terms. The US Congress now has un­til mid-De­cem­ber to de­cide whether to reim­pose eco­nomic sanc­tions on Iran that had been lifted in ex­change for it lim­it­ing its nu­clear ac­tiv­ity.

But the EU, which nor­mally co-or­di­nates closely with Washington on in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, has been lob­by­ing hard to pre­serve the nu­clear ac­cord, say­ing it should be kept sep­a­rate from mis­sile and re­gional se­cu­rity mat­ters.

Last week, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron mooted the pos­si­bil­ity of fresh sanc­tions, say­ing he was “very con­cerned” about Iran’s mis­sile pro­gramme fol­low­ing the fir­ing of a mis­sile from Ye­men into Saudi Ara­bia.

“It would cer­tainly be a very in­ter­est­ing and prob­a­bly help­ful move on the part of the EU,” the US ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial told re­porters in Brus­sels when asked if Washington wanted the EU to pur­sue fresh re­stric­tions on Iran.

The mis­sile fired into Saudi Ara­bia from Ye­men on Novem­ber 4 was in­ter­cepted near Riyadh air­port and there were no ca­su­al­ties. Saudi Ara­bia, which in­ter­vened against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Ye­men’s war in 2015, ac­cuses the Is­lamic Re­pub­lic of sup­ply­ing mis­siles and other weaponry to the Houthis.

Tehran de­nies this and it also re­jected Macron’s re­marks, say­ing its mis­sile pro­gramme was solely de­fen­sive and not linked to the nu­clear pact, which Euro­pean pow- ers, Rus­sia and China – the other par­ties to the 2015 deal – say is vi­tal to con­tain­ing Mid­dle East ten­sions.

And there is no con­sen­sus in the EU, where im­pos­ing any sanc­tions re­quires the una­nim­ity of all 28 mem­ber states, on any new puni­tive mea­sures, a fact made clear by the bloc’s top diplo­mat af­ter chair­ing for­eign min­is­ter talks on Mon­day.

“We didn’t dis­cuss, not to­day, not last week (and) I don’t fore­see any dis­cus­sion also in the fu­ture, fur­ther sanc­tions from the EU side on Iran,” EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini told re­porters when asked about Macron’s comments.

“Bal­lis­tic mis­siles are not in the scope of the (nu­clear deal),” she said. “This is a dis­cus­sion and a pro­posal that was never raised at our ta­ble in th­ese re­cent months and I don’t fore­see this hap­pen­ing in the near fu­ture.”

Iran and Saudi Ara­bia are locked in a strug­gle for Mid­dle East pre­dom­i­nance.

Their ri­valry flared again ear­lier this month with the res­ig­na­tion of Saudi-backed Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Saad al-Hariri, who blamed an al­leged as­sas­si­na­tion plot against him and ac­cused Tehran and its heav­ily armed Le­banese ally Hezbol­lah of sow­ing con­flict in the Arab world.

The US ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial de­clined to say what the Congress might do in the wake of Trump’s ac­tion but said any new US sanc­tions would be tar­geted nar­rowly at peo­ple and en­ti­ties in­volved di­rectly in the ar­eas of con­cern.

“We should ex­pect to see a con­tin­ued use of the US sanc­tions tool in the ar­eas such as pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion, sup­port for ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions and the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of hu­man rights in­side Iran.”

The US of­fi­cial also said the West should keep up pres­sure on Rus­sia as long as it does not re­verse its 2015 an­nex­a­tion of Crimea from Ukraine or im­ple­ment its side of a peace deal for Ukraine’s east, gripped by a Moscow-backed in­sur­gency.

The EU’s own eco­nomic sanc­tions on Moscow, which re­strict busi­ness with the Rus­sian en­ergy, de­fence and fi­nan­cial sec­tors, are cur­rently in place un­til the end of Jan­uary 2018. –

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