U.S. CRITICIZES EUROPEAN AID PACKAGE FOR TEHRAN
TEHRAN, Aug 25, (Agencies): Iran awaiting European guarantees on the sale of Iranian oil and banking relations, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA). President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May and is reimposing sanctions on Tehran, while other parties to the accord are trying to find ways to save the agreement. “We are still waiting for Europe to take action on the sale of Iranian oil and the preservation of banking channels,” the Iranian foreign minister said.
Zarif also defended the European Union’s decision on Thursday to provide 18 million euros ($21 million) in aid to Iran to offset the impact of US sanctions, part of efforts to salvage the 2015 deal to limit Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. “This is a package that will help both sides have communication with each other and it doesn’t have anything to do with the nuclear agreement and other hype,” the minister said, according to ISNA.
The top US envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, criticised the EU aid to Tehran on Friday and said it sent “the wrong message at the wrong time.” The EU funding is part of a wider package of 50 million euros earmarked in the EU budget for Iran, which has threatened to stop complying with the nuclear accord if it fails to see the economic benefit of relief from sanctions.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for unity on Saturday in the face of criticism from all sides of his handling of an economic crisis and tensions with the United States. “Now is not the time to unload our burdens on to somebody else’s shoulders. We must help each other,” Rouhani said in a televised speech at the shrine of late revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini. “The country’s problems and resisting foreigners’ conspiracies is the responsibility of every one of us.” With rapidly rising food prices, a dramatic currency collapse and the reimposition of US sanctions after it abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal, many Iranians are in a bleak mood.
Much of his electoral base among reform-minded urbanites has lost faith in him, while working-class areas have seen months of sporadic strikes and protests that have occasionally turned violent. Some of the most virulent criticism has come from the hardline religious establishment who long opposed Rouhani’s efforts to rebuild ties with the West.
On Aug 16, an image went viral of a protest by seminary students in the shrine city of Qom, at which one placard warned Rouhani would meet the same fate as former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was found dead in a swimming pool last year. Rouhani sought to play down the differences, saying: “The clerical, religious institutions and the government are alongside each other.” But he added a typically cryptic warning: “No one can walk into the sea and not expect to get his feet wet.”
Hardliners have been blamed for stoking economic protests that have sometimes turned against the Islamic system as a whole. Rouhani still has the support of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who says he must remain in power to avoid further disorder. But Khamenei has also blamed government mismanagement, rather than foreign hostility, for the current crisis. “We are aware of people’s pain, suffering and problems and all our efforts are geared at reducing these problems,” Rouhani pledged.
Iran has meanwhile resumed talks with Russia to build a new nuclear power plant capable of generating up to 3,000 megawatts of electricity, energy minister Reza Ardakanian said Saturday, according to the Tasnim news agency. The Islamic Republic currently has the capacity to produce 1,000 megawatts of nuclear electricity, Tasnim reported. Iran already runs one Russianbuilt nuclear reactor at Bushehr, its first. Russia signed a deal with Iran in 2014 to build up to eight more reactors in the country.