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
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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)


Tunisia’s ‘truth commission’ winds up four-year mission

Updated 12 December 2018
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Tunisia’s ‘truth commission’ winds up four-year mission

  • The commission, whose mandate was extended in the spring until the end of 2018
  • At the end of November, the commission drew up criteria for compensation that exclude those with post-2011 government

TUNIS: After four years working “under fire” and interviewing almost 50,000 witnesses, Tunisia’s commission tasked with serving justice to victims of half a century of dictatorship is poised to submit its recommendations.

Set up in 2014 following the 2011 revolution and in the wake of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall, the Truth and Dignity Institute has a mission to “reveal the truth about the human rights violations” in Tunisia between 1955 and 2013.

In its final act, the commission will submit its recommendations to Tunisia’s leadership.

The first version is to be delivered at a public event on Friday and Saturday, before the full report is submitted by Dec. 31.

The government, with the assistance of a parliamentary follow-up committee, will have one year to draw up an action plan based on the recommendations.

The commission’s task was to collect and disseminate testimonies, send some of those suspected of rape, murder, torture or corruption to specialised courts, and recommend measures to prevent any recurrence.

Operating in the only Arab Spring country which has kept to a democratic path since the 2011 revolt, its mandate has also been to seek national reconciliation through a revival of the North African state’s collective memory.

The commission, whose mandate was extended in the spring until the end of 2018, has been studying more than 60,000 complaints and has this year sent dozens of cases to the courts.

Over the past four years, the panel has heard harrowing testimony from victims of torture in jail, some of which has been aired to large television audiences.

“From the very start we’ve worked under fire and come up against difficulties, due to the absence of political will,” commission official Khaled Krichi told AFP.

He said demands for the handover of judicial cases involving corruption had been rejected, as well as for archive materials from the Interior Ministry on prisoners who had suffered torture.

A contested amnesty law passed in 2017 cleared some officials suspected of administrative corruption.

The commission also faced political resistance with the return of former regime leaders to power, internal disputes as well as the lack of cooperation by state institutions.

Thirteen specialized courts have been set up and started work at the end of May on dozens of cases submitted by the commission.

Twenty trials are underway, mostly of victims of the 2011 revolution and of radical and leftist opposition figures tortured under the rule of Ben Ali or his predecessor Habib Bourguiba.

Krichi said settlements have been reached in 10 cases of financial corruption involving former regime figures, including that of Slim Chiboub, a son-in-law of Ben Ali, who has agreed to pay back 307 million dinars ($113 million).

The state, however, faced with accusations of torture and sexual violence, has rejected 1,000 demands for “reconciliation” with the victims. A row has also broken out over compensation cases, with members of Parliament claiming the costs would bankrupt the state and that many claims were designed to benefit supporters of extremist movement Ennahdha.

At the end of November, the commission drew up criteria for compensation that exclude those with post-2011 government or parliamentary posts.

Around 25,000 people are eligible to compensation from the Al-Karama (Dignity) Fund established in 2014, according to Krichi.

It is being financed by donations, a percentage of the funds recovered through settlements and a one-time government grant of 10 million dinars ($3.7 million).