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Saturday , November 17 2018

EU, Iran, Moscow warn US on new sanctions – ‘AMERICA FIRST CANNOT MEAN EUROPE’S INTERESTS COME LAST’

BEIRUT, July 26, (Agencies): Iran will reciprocate if the United States imposes new sanctions on it, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday according to state media, casting further doubt over the outlook for the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

The US House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to slap new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea, although it was unclear how quickly the bill would make its way to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto.

State media quoted Rouhani as citing a verse from the Quran saying: “If the enemy puts part of their promises underfoot then we will also put part of it underfoot. And if they put all of their promises underfoot then we will also put all promises underfoot.”

But he added: “The Quran also advises that if enemies are really pursuing peace and want to put enmity aside and act appropriately toward you, then you should do the same.”

He said that parliament would take the initial steps in responding to any US moves and that any necessary further steps would also be pursued.

On Tuesday, Trump issued a veiled threat against Iran, warning it to adhere to the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal it signed together with world powers or else face “big, big problems.”

A week after certifying Iran as complying with the agreement negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, Trump has made it clear that he remains extremely wary of Tehran.

The Iranian side appears equally wary of Washington, with a senior Revolutionary Guards commander issuing a similar threat in return on Wednesday.

“The Trump government, more than before, should be cautious and precise with their military approach in the Islamic revolution environment,” Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces was quoted by the Tasnim news site as saying on Wednesday.

“We will confront any American mischief with a response that will make them sorry,” he said.

The head of the Guards was quoted as saying last week that Washington should move its bases and avoid “miscalculations” over new sanctions against Tehran. The United States has bases in Qatar and Kuwait across the Gulf from Iran, while the US Fifth Fleet is based in nearby Bahrain.

EU to counter sanctions

Meanwhile, the European Union warned on Wednesday that it was ready to act within days to counter proposed new US sanctions on Russia, saying they would harm the bloc’s energy security.

Sanctions legislation overwhelmingly approved by the US House of Representatives on Tuesday has angered EU officials for breaking transatlantic unity in the West’s response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Brussels also fears the new sanctions will harm European firms and oil and gas projects on which the EU is dependent.

“The US bill could have unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU’s energy security interests,” EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement issued after a meeting at which European commissioners were united in their views, according to a senior EU official.

“If our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days. ‘America First’ cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last,” he said, mentioning President Donald Trump’s guiding slogan.

European Commission officials say the bloc could use EU regulations allowing it to prevent the application of extraterritorial measures by the United States; demand a US promise to exclude EU energy companies; or impose outright bans on doing business with certain US companies. In addition, the EU could file a complaint at the World Trade Organization.

However, most measures taken by Brussels would require approval from all 28 EU member governments, which could expose potential differences in individual nations’ relations with Moscow and Washington.

Despite changes to the US bill that took into account some EU concerns, Brussels said the legislation could still hinder upkeep of the gas pipeline network in Russia that feeds into Ukraine and supplies over a quarter of EU needs. The EU says it could also hamper projects crucial to its energy diversification goals, such as the Baltic Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project.

The sanctions target the disputed Nord Stream 2 project for a new pipeline running from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing traditional transit routes through Ukraine.

A list prepared by the EU executive, seen by Reuters, shows eight projects including those involving oil majors Anglo-Dutch Shell, BP and Italy’s Eni that risk falling foul of the US measures.

Voicing frustration at the fraying in the joint Western approach to Moscow, Juncker said “close coordination among allies” was key to ensuring sanctions are effective.

The EU, the Commission said, is raising its concerns via “all diplomatic channels”.

It was unclear how quickly the US bill would reach the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto. The bill amounts to a rebuke of Trump by requiring him to obtain lawmakers’ permission before easing any sanctions on Moscow.

Rejecting the legislation — which would potentially stymie his wish for improved relations with Moscow — would carry a risk that his veto could be overridden by lawmakers.

Moscow slams US

Moscow hit out at the United States on Wednesday after an overwhelming vote by the House of Representatives to impose new sanctions on Russia left President Donald Trump facing a tough call.

The package, which targets Russia, Iran and North Korea, “tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said after it passed on Tuesday by 419 votes to three.

It now heads to the Senate before Trump faces the tricky choice of whether to veto the bill, which has been opposed by the White House and considerably constrains his ability to lift the penalties.

While Moscow and Tehran raised the prospect of retaliation over any fresh punitive measures, the EU also warned it was “ready to act to protect European interests” if the legislation hit dealings with the Russian energy sector.

The US bill was the result of a congressional compromise aimed at punishing the Kremlin for allegedly interfering in the 2016 US presidential election and intervening in Ukraine.

Key among the provisions is one that handcuffs Trump by complicating any unilateral efforts to ease santions against Moscow in future — effectively placing him under Congress’s watch.

“Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said, applauding the bill’s backing.

Despite initially opposing the bill, Trump appears to have few options in the face of near-total consensus in Congress, with a decision likely due by mid-August.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House was still “reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the president’s desk”.

But even if Trump were to veto the legislation, Congress would likely be able to overcome such a blockage with a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

Moscow responded angrily to the vote, with deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov insisting Washington had been warned “dozens of times” that any new sanctions would “not go unanswered”.

“The authors and sponsors of this bill are taking a very serious step towards destroying the possibilities for normalising relations with Russia,” he told state-run TASS news agency.

Ties between Moscow and Washington have been at their lowest point since the Cold War since the US began slapping sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Trump repeatedly pledged to improve relations during his campaign, raising the prospect that he could roll back the Obama-era punishments.

Since then, accusations from US intelligence that the Kremlin meddled in the vote to get Trump elected have made any softening of the stance on Russia politically toxic.

The bill also includes fresh sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which stands accused of supporting terrorism, and North Korea, for its missile tests, are also included.

Meanwhile, France’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said new US sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea appeared at odds with international law due to their extra-territorial reach.

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for these sanctions, which could affect European firms.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that French and European laws would need to be adjusted in response and added that discussions would be necessary at European Union level because of the potential impact on European citizens and firms.

 

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