20 January 2011
The Swiss government has announced tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The new measures will bring the Alpine confederation in line with the 27 European Union member states – its main trading partners –, the Swiss government announced on Wednesday. The new measures, which will come into force Thursday, should prevent Switzerland from being used as a way for Iran to get goods that it would otherwise not be able to get from other countries, the government said in a statement.
Swiss companies will now no longer be allowed to sell or deliver so-called dual use goods, products which could also be used for military purposes. The existing ban on exports of heavy war material will be extended to all sorts of military goods. There will also be limits placed on the exports of certain products that could be used in Iran's oil and gas industry as well as on financing in this sector, the government said in Bern. The Swiss are also restricting the financial services that Iran can get from Switzerland.
In 2010, Switzerland exported goods worth around US$ 730 million to Iran. Tehran’s refusal to comply with previous United Nations Security Council resolutions to allow full inspections of its nuclear sites convinced Russia and China to also back the UN sanctions last June. The United States and the EU added their own additional measures targeting finance and the energy sector.
In 2008, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey – who currently also serves as Swiss president – was strongly criticized by World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder and others for signing a multi-billion dollar gas supply contract with Iran. Calmy-Rey met with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wearing a white head scarf and seated below a picture of the late Ayatollah Khomeini (picture above). The energy firm EGL – which jointly is owned by several regional authorities – has so far said it would adhere to the gas deal with Iran.
Simone Dinah Hartmann, spokeswoman of the initiative Stop the Bomb, which is campaigning against European business ties with Iran, called on EGL and other Swiss companies to end their dealings with the Iranian regime: "Despite EGL's current restraint, the company affirmed to adhere to the gas supply contract closed with Iran. The only appropriate thing to do, however, would be to withdraw from the contract. At the same time, we also want to draw the attention to other Swiss companies conducting business with Iran, such as Holcim, Zeochem, Sulzer, ABB, Buehler, and Ceresola. With their trade ties they are in fact co-sponsoring the Iranian regime's policies of armament and oppression."
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