Iran denounces latest US sanctions, welcomes ‘new European initiatives’ for non-dollar trade

The US sanctions targeted Iran's oil industry, as well as its financial sector. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018

Iran denounces latest US sanctions, welcomes ‘new European initiatives’ for non-dollar trade

  • ‘Sooner or later they will become aware of the futility of their schemes’
  • Iran praises European efforts to maintain business with Tehran by setting up a way to conduct non-dollar trade

TEHRAN: Iran’s foreign ministry denounced the latest US Treasury sanctions as “fruitless and senseless” in a statement issued on Wednesday.
“These fruitless, senseless and ineffective sanctions... will undoubtedly never achieve the desired outcome of their designers and enforcers,” it said.
“Sooner or later they will become aware of the futility of their schemes.”
Washington slapped fresh sanctions on Tehran Tuesday, accusing it of creating a complex web of Russian cut-out companies and Syrian intermediaries to ship oil to Damascus, which in turn bankrolled Hezbollah and Hamas.
The US considers both Hezbollah, a heavily armed Lebanese militia, and Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, to be terrorist organizations.
The US Treasury said in a statement that Tehran, “working with Russian companies, provides millions of barrels of oil to the Syrian government” of President Bashar Al-Assad.
“The Assad regime, in turn, facilitates the movement of hundreds of millions of US dollars to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force for onward transfer to Hamas and Hezbollah,” it said, referring to Iran’s main foreign military operations unit.
Meanwhile, Iran on Wednesday praised European efforts to maintain business with Tehran despite US sanctions, citing “constructive meetings” with British and French officials in Tehran this week on setting up a way to conduct non-dollar trade.
Iranian Foreign Ministry officials voiced more hope for the move a day after Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif cast doubt on it, saying European powers were struggling to set up a “Special Purpose Vehicle” (SPV) trade mechanism.
European diplomats said last week British, French and German attempts to establish the SPV were faltering because no EU country was willing to host it for fear of its banks provoking US penalties, including a ban from US markets.
In May, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from world powers’ 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, under which Tehran curbed its disputed uranium enrichment program in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions. Trump has since reimposed US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports.
The three big European Union powers and the EU as a whole have reaffirmed their commitment to the nuclear deal, as have Russia and China. Iran has warned it could repudiate the deal unless its economic benefits are preserved.
“We had constructive meetings with British and French officials and nuclear negotiators in Tehran yesterday and today,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said in a tweet on Wednesday, referring to British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Tehran.
A French delegation was also in Tehran to meet Araqchi on Wednesday, the semi-official Fars news agency said.
“The European Union and the three European countries are still determined to save the JCPOA (nuclear deal). New initiatives are being designed for the SPV,” Araqchi said.
The SPV is a sort of clearing house that could help match Iranian oil and gas exports against purchases of EU goods in an effective barter arrangement circumventing US sanctions that are based on global use of the dollar for oil sales.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said that Iran had not given up hope on the SPV, and denied reports that Tehran was preparing to withdraw from the nuclear deal.
“We have not been able yet to finalize the (SPV) issue to facilitate Iran’s purchase of essential goods, and business with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),” Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by semi-official news agency ISNA.
“But we are not in a state to be totally disappointed with the European Union.”
The US special envoy for Iran warned last week that European banks and firms who engage in the SPV will be at risk from fresh US sanctions.

(With AFP and Reuters)

Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2019

Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.