US warns firms against breaking Iran sanctions
17 January, 2014
ROME/Vienna: Iran is still a "perilous" place for foreign companies to do business because of sanctions unaffected by the recent interim nuclear deal, a senior US administration official said on Wednesday during a visit to Rome.
The six-month agreement only provides for the easing of limited sanctions and the unblocking of some frozen Iranian assets abroad and foreign firms should not "over-interpret" its scope, the official said.
"Businesses need to take into account the legal and reputational risk of doing business with Iran", he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official added that Italy had been identified by Washington as one of the countries with historic and current trade ties with Iran and pointed out that Tehran saw Italy as a possible "gateway" to Europe. Italian oil major ENI, along with other foreign oil firms, should "convey to their partners in the oil sector that they are not going in now," he said. The US is engaged in "an ongoing effort to visit key partners to continue to ensure that the sanctions regime that has been built over the past 5-10 years remains robust, remains in place," he said.
The international deal with Iran is due to come into force from January 20 and foresees the suspension of certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran's auto sector, and petrochemical exports.
It will also allow for safety-related repairs and inspections for some Iranian airlines, ease restrictions on oil shipping and unblock $4.2 billion from sanctioned Iranian oil sales.
In another development, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said Wednesday he has called an extraordinary meeting of the agency's board on January 24 to discuss how to verify Iran's upcoming nuclear freeze.
"I have requested that a meeting of the board of governors be convened on 24 January," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said in a statement.
He said he would "consult" with the 35-nation board regarding a request by Iran and six world powers to the IAEA to "undertake monitoring and verification of nuclear-related measures in relation to the Joint Plan of Action" signed on November 24. Under the landmark deal due to take effect on January 20, Iran has agreed to freeze parts of its nuclear programme for six months in exchange for moderate sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions.
During this six-month period, Iran and the six powers — the US, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — are to hammer out a "comprehensive" deal resolving for good the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme. The Vienna-based IAEA, which will have a key role verifying that Iran does what it promised, gave no details on Wednesday of its plans, but Amano said previously the agency would need additional resources. The extra work "requires a significant amount of money and manpower.... The IAEA's budget is very, very tight. I don't think we can cover everything from our own budget," Amano had told reporters in late November. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful but many in the international community suspect otherwise, with the UN Security Council demanding a suspension of certain activities in a string of resolutions.