Last updated: 30 August, 2014

Iran says fresh US sanctions have deepened mistrust

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday condemned a new round of American sanctions linked to his country’s nuclear activities, saying mistrust had been “further deepened” by the fresh measures.

His remarks followed the US government’s announcement of a slew of penalties targeting dozens of Iranian individuals and entities, including shipping and oil companies, banks and airlines.

The latest sanctions — which Washington said were levelled because of support for terrorism and as punishment for existing restrictions being skirted — come despite Iran’s ongoing talks with the West which are aimed at ending the decade-long nuclear dispute.

“This is not compatible with the atmosphere of the negotiations,” Rouhani said of action by the US Treasury and State Department.

“It goes against confidence building measures. Mistrust has further deepened,” he told reporters in Tehran, also defending attempts to circumvent sanctions on the oil sector, banks and other industries.

“Some sanctions like those against drugs or food products are crimes against humanity,” Rouhani said. “We fight and go round these sanctions and we are proud of that.”

A wide array of international sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear programme, most of them financial, are considered to have wrecked its economy in recent years but advocates say such tough action brought the Islamic republic back to the negotiating table.

Despite his criticism on Saturday, Rouhani pledged that discussions with the P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany — would continue.

“We hope to achieve a result within the time limit if the other party acts with goodwill,” he said, noting that three or four difficult questions remain ahead of a November 24 deadline.

The biggest disagreement in the talks is believed to concern the amount of uranium enrichment that Iran would be allowed to carry out under a comprehensive agreement.

– Talks resume next month –

The talks are scheduled to resume next month on the sidelines of the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York. Rouhani is expected to attend but said Saturday he had no plans to meet US President Barack Obama at the event.

Tehran contends that its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy production reasons and denies international allegations that it has sought to develop an atomic bomb.

Earlier on Saturday, other senior Iranian officials hit out at the US Treasury action.

“The duplicity of the Americans is totally unacceptable,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi, a key member of the team that for almost one year has been seeking a nuclear settlement with the West.

“You cannot on the one hand say that you are negotiating with goodwill and then at the same time use such means,” he added.

Iran’s foreign ministry said the new sanctions were contrary to US commitments under the Geneva agreement, an interim deal under which world powers agreed in November to relieve some penalties on Iran in exchange for curbs on the latter’s nuclear activities.

Asia Bank, one of the banks hit by Friday’s action, has provided US dollar bank notes to Iran, including a mid-2014 delivery from Moscow of more than $13 million, in violation of US sanctions, the Treasury said.

Tehran also used Iranian government-owned airline Meraj Air and Iran-based Caspian Air to ferry illicit cargo, including weapons, to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, US officials said.

The State Department separately announced sanctions targeting weapons of mass destruction proliferators and supporters, and those linked to Iran’s energy sector.

Among the targets were Goldentex FZE, a company based in United Arab Emirates, for its support of Iran’s energy and shipping sectors, and Italy-based Dettin, for helping Tehran evade oil sanctions.

The restrictions freeze any assets in the US and prohibit transactions with Americans.

The White House’s National Security Council said that despite the new measures, the US was committed to working with its global partners towards a nuclear deal with Iran.