Australia toughening Iran sanctions

Australia will beef up its sanctions against Iran over the Middle Eastern nation’s nuclear ambitions, with new curbs on natural gas trade and banking.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced Thursday that new sanctions would be imposed on the nation of 75 million people in the face of the Iranian government’s obstinacy over its uranium enrichment program.

The announcement comes days after Australia was given key responsibility for enforcing global sanctions against Iran - part of Australia’s new role as a member of the United Nations Security Council.

''These sanctions further increase pressure on Iran to comply with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations and with UN Security Council resolutions and to engage in serious negotiations on its nuclear program,'' Senator Carr said.

The strengthening of sanctions brings Australia into line with the European Union, Britain and the United States.

There are signs the international sanctions regime is starting to bite. Iran has reportedly said this week it is willing to hold fresh talks with international powers, the ‘‘P5+1’’ group made up of the US, Britain, Russia, China, and France, plus Germany.

Most of Australia’s trade with Iran is in agriculture. The new sanctions include a ban on financial transactions with the Central Bank of Iran unless authorised in advance.

This is likely to mean Australian companies will need to check whether the bank they deal with in Iran has links to the Central Bank of Iran, to avoid breaking the sanctions inadvertently.

The other important sanction is in natural gas, of which Iran is a major producer. Some Australian firms are thought to import gas from Iran.

There will a public comment period on a draft exposure of the new regulations, during which Australian firms will have time to make new arrangements if they are in danger of breaking the new rules.

The consultation period will likely last a few months while the government talks to companies affected by the changes, after which the sanctions will formally take effect.

The UN has had sanctions against Iran since 2006 over its uranium enrichment program, with eight separate resolutions having been passed since that year.

Iran insists the program is for peaceful purposes but the international community believes it wants nuclear weapons as part of its ambition to be a regional superpower.

The story Australia toughening Iran sanctions first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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