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Russia calls UN Iran sanctions report 'sloppy'
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) May 12, 2011

EU to blacklist Iranian-owned bank, says Berlin official
Berlin (AFP) May 13, 2011 - The EU is set to blacklist a German-based Iranian-owned bank which it believes is involved in the Islamic republic's secret nuclear weapons' programme, a German government official said Friday.

The decision to include the European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH) on the European Union's blacklist "for its role in (Iranian) illegal activities" is expected to be taken by the community's foreign ministers at a meeting on May 23, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Evidence pointing to the EIH's involvement in (nuclear) proliferation has multiplied and become tangible," the official said, adding that "from the German government's point of view conditions have been met" for a ban "and this is also the consensus at the European level".

International sanctions have been slapped on Iran in an attempt to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies it wants nuclear weapons.

Citing unnamed Western officials, the Wall Street Journal last year said the EIH bank had done more than a billion dollars of business on behalf of firms subject to US, UN and EU sanctions.

The UN Security Council slapped a fourth set of sanctions against Iran in June for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment work, the most sensitive part of Tehran's atomic drive.

These authorise states to conduct high-seas inspections of vessels suspected of ferrying banned items to Iran and added 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.

The Journal said that EIH's business partners include units of Iran's Defense Industries Organization, the Aerospace Industries Organization and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In 2009, EIH appears to have been involved in a broad sanctions-evasion scheme, conducting transactions on behalf of Iran's Bank Sepah that has been sanctioned for facilitating Iran's weapons trade and proliferation activities, the US paper said.

EIH was founded by a group of Iranian merchants in Hamburg in 1971. It operates openly under the supervision of German bank regulators, but the US Department of Treasury had earlier blacklisted it for alleged illicit business with Iran.

Russia threatened Friday to block a UN Security Council report on Iran sanctions, calling the work which said Iran has been shipping weapons to Syria "loose and sloppy."

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said his mission did not agree with the report and would be raising objections with the 15-nation Security Council.

"We believe that it is a loose and sloppy piece of work and we believe that there are some recommendations which our experts do not agree with at all," Churkin told reporters.

He said "problems" with the panel of experts report would be raised on the Iran sanctions committee, which diplomats said will not meet until early June.

"These are highly technical matters and we have about two or three pages of concerns and disagreement on proposals and conclusions that are made. So this is something that we intend to raise with our colleagues," Churkin said.

The report said four rounds of UN sanctions are slowing Iran's nuclear program but the Islamic Republic has breached an arms embargo by shipping weapons to Syria.

Churkin would not give details on the Russian objections. But it can block the report as the study can only be published if all nations agree.

Syria is a key Russian ally in the Middle East and some diplomats have said Russia may be trying to protect President Bashar al-Assad, who faces international criticism over his government's deadly crackdown on opposition protests.

Six of the nine violations of a UN ban on conventional arms shipments by Iran involve Syria, said the report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

The UN Security Council has passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment, which Western nations say is a front for a nuclear arms drive.

The sanctions are "slowing Iran's nuclear program but are not yet having an impact on the decision calculus of its leadership with respect to halting uranium enrichment and heavy water-related activities," the experts said.

Iran is believed "to be coming close to exhausting its supply of uranium oxide." It may therefore be seeking new sources of uranium to expand its enrichment, they added.

International embargoes, assets freezes and travel bans have "clearly forced changes in the way in which Iran procures items," said the report.

"At the same time, Iran's circumvention of sanctions across all areas, in particular front companies, concealment methods in shipping, financial transactions, and the transfer of conventional arms and related materiel, is willful and continuing."

The panel of experts recommended adding the names of new individuals and companies to the UN sanction list.

"The panel notes that most reported incidents of conventional arms-related violations involve Syria, which has a long and close relationship with Iran," said the report.

On top of nine incidents listed, the experts added that it was likely other undetected arms shipments had been made.

Israel seized one Iranian shipment to the Hamas group in Gaza, which was carried out through Syria.


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