Iran : Britain fears Tehran block on trade


Richard Moore

    A Foreign Office spokesman described as "complete rubbish"
    Iranian claims that British soldiers were supporting Khalq
    guerrillas carrying out actions in southern Iran.

'Complete rubbish' is an accurate description of the Foreign
Office's credibility.



Britain fears Tehran block on trade 

·Tensions escalate in wake of IAEA resolution 
·Officials claim British agents planted bombs 

Robert Tait in Ahvazn and Ewen MacAskill 
Thursday October 20, 2005 


The Foreign Office was yesterday investigating whether the
Iranian government has slapped a trade embargo on Britain as
punishment for the UK's stance over Iran's nuclear programme.

Diplomats in Tehran said the informal move - which has not
been officially announced - appeared to be in retaliation for
Britain's uncompromising stance and reflected a worsening in
relations between the countries.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of indications
that action has been taken against British companies but it
has happened before at various times of tension, and I believe
we can cope."

It follows a period of heightened tension between the two
countries and follows Iranian accusations that Britain was
behind a series of bombings in the south of the country at the

Tony Blair and other government figures have accused Iran of
providing sophisticated weapons to insurgent groups that have
been used to kill British troops in southern Iraq this year.

The anti-British trade ban has been accompanied by other ad
hoc embargoes against South Korea, the Czech Republic and
Argentina. All three countries voted for a British-led
resolution at last month's meeting of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), which agreed to refer Iran to the UN
security council unless it suspended current nuclear

Britain sells about $1bn (£560m) a year in goods, mainly for
the oil industry, to Iran. Iranian sales to Britain are
relatively small by comparison.

Iran took similar action a few years ago, according to a
British official. He said it is normal for the Iranian
government not to formally announce such a ban but simply to
delay visas, credit deals, customs papers and take other such
actions that bring trade to a standstill.

The move against Britain came after calls from Iran's hardline
media for a severing of links between the two countries.
Gholamhossein Elham, chief of staff to the Iranian president,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, confirmed yesterday that worsening
political ties would affect trade relations. "Political
relations and views definitely have an impact on economic
relations," the ISNA student news agency quoted him as saying.
"Iran's political, economic and cultural relations with other
countries are connected to one another and these relations
have an impact on each other."

The latest embargo follows a period of anti-British rhetoric
from Iran. Last month demonstrators hurled petrol bombs and
eggs at the British embassy compound in Tehran in anger over
the IAEA resolution.

There were further signs of deteriorating ties yesterday when
the head of the judiciary in the southern province of
Khuzestan claimed a plot by "British spies" to blow up Iran's
largest oil refinery had been foiled.

Sayed Khalil Akbar al-Sadat told the hardline Jomhuri Islami
newspaper that the refinery in Abadan had been targeted by
agents "using five Katyusha rockets with a timer on them". The
report followed claims by law enforcement officials that they
had defused a bomb beneath a bridge in Ahvaz, Khuzestan's
capital. Ahvaz was the scene of two bombings last Saturday
which killed six people. A Foreign Office spokesman described
as "complete rubbish" Iranian claims that British soldiers
were supporting Khalq guerrillas carrying out actions in
southern Iran.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005 

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