Tehran: Iran dismissed a new wave of sanctions on Tuesday, saying the West’s attempts to isolate its economy would only serve to unite Iranians behind their government’s nuclear programme.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new measures against Iran’s energy and financial sectors on Monday and France proposed “unprecedented” new sanctions, including freezing the assets of its central bank and suspending purchases of its oil.
The news pushed benchmark Brent crude above $107, reflecting concerns about escalating tensions with the world’s fifth biggest exporter, but Iran’s Foreign Ministy spokesman dismissed the latest sanctions as empty “propaganda”.
File photo of Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. Reuters
“Such measures are condemned by our people and will have no impact and be in vain,” Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference. “They will have no impact on Iran’s trade and economic ties with other countries.”
A UN nuclear agency report, which prompted the latest sanctions due to intelligence suggesting Iran had worked on an atomic bomb design, was baseless and merely the work of its Western enemies, he said.
“If our people feel that enemies want to deprive them of their rights by threatening, bullying and adopting illegal and irrational methods, they will pursue the path that they have taken, more united and more determined than ever,” Mehmanparast said.
Russia, whose reluctance to join Washington’s new anti-Iran drive prevented any possible tightening of the four existing rounds of UN sanctions, condemned what it said were “extraterritorial measures unacceptable and contradictory to international law.”
The sanctions are meant to pressure Iran to suspend the nuclear programme before it gets the bomb. Israel and Washington have said they do not rule out military strikes on Iran if other efforts fail to stop its nuclear work.
Some Tehran residents initially feared airstrikes had started when a huge explosion rocked a military base near the capital on 12 November but the blast turned out to be an accident that happened while troops were working on a missile.
Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says its atomic work is aimed only as generating power and for medical and agricultural uses.
The National Iranian American Council advocacy group said the new sanctions would “punish ordinary people for the actions of the Iranian regime” and impede sales of food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods to Iran.
“Iran’s democratic opposition has warned that broad sanctions are a ‘gift to the regime.´ Sanctions on Iran have undermined the backbone of the opposition - Iran’s middle class - and enriched Iran’s Revolutionary Guard,” NIAC said in a statement.
The true economic impact of the new measures is unclear.
US and EU sanctions passed in 2010 already stopped most Western banks dealing with Iran and pressure from Washington made it temporarily impossible for Indian oil buyers to pay for some $5 billion of Iranian oil earlier in 2011.
And while President Barack Obama said on Monday the United States had “the entire Iranian banking sector -- including the Central Bank of Iran” in its sights, Washington avoided sanctioning the bank that handles Iran’s receipts of more than 2 million barrels of oil exported each day, for fear of the impact on the oil market and global economy.
Britain ordered all British financial institutions to stop doing business with their Iranian counterparts, including the central bank.
“(The new sanctions are) clearly going to add to the transaction costs that Iranians have to face for all of their international trade. It is going to be a complication, but I still think that the impact will be marginal,” said David Butter, regional director at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London.
“It is going to slow down business and trade activities to some extent, but Iran has had many years to build up experience of dealing with these sorts of measures and I’m sure they’ll find some ways around them.”
Iran says new measures aimed at its petrochemicals sector would serve only to push up prices rather than stop its exports worth $8.6 billion in 2010.