Daily Telegraph: Iran has imposed an undeclared embargo on British imports as it steps up accusations that Britain is behind a series of bombings near the southern border with Iraq. Daily Telegraph
By Anton La Guardia, Diplomatic Editor
Iran has imposed an undeclared embargo on British imports as it steps up accusations that Britain is behind a series of bombings near the southern border with Iraq.
The moves are further evidence of a crisis in relations between Teheran and London, highlighted by the British-led effort to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and British accusations that Teheran is giving Iraqi insurgents bomb-making technology that has killed several British soldiers this year.
As hardline Iranian newspapers demanded the closure of the British embassy in Teheran, the government appeared to be acting on its threats to use economic ties to favour its allies and punish its foes.
“Some companies have reported difficulties even though the Iranian ministry of commerce says there are no new restraints,” said a Foreign Office spokesman. “We are looking into this and we will be discussing the situation with British companies and the Iranian authorities.”
In private, however, British officials are certain a ban is in force, with British goods held up at customs and the Iranian authorities declining applications for letters of credit for British imports.
A similar policy has affected goods from South Korea, which is on the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran’s presidential chief of staff, Gholamhossein Elham, declined to confirm the import bans, but the semi-official ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying: “Political relations and views definitely have an impact on economic relations.”
British officials say exports to Iran, worth about £1 billion a year, had recovered after similar bans in the past.
Britain, Germany and France last month led a campaign to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council, fearing that Teheran was secretly trying to build a nuclear bomb. But they were blocked by opposition from Russia and China. Instead, the IAEA declared Iran to be in “non-compliance” with its nuclear obligations.
The confrontation appears to be spilling across the border into southern Iraq, where at least eight British servicemen have been killed this year by sophisticated roadside bombs.
British officials say that infra-red triggers and shaped charges designed to pierce armour are similar to those given by Iran to Hizbollah, a Lebanese group, against Israeli forces.
In recent months Iran has regularly accused Britain of involvement in riots and explosions in the mainly-Arab south of Iran.
Yesterday officials in the city of Abadan said they had foiled an attempt by “British spies” to blow up its largest oil refinery. On Tuesday police said they had defused a large bomb planted under a bridge in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province. At the weekend a double bomb attack killed six people and injured more than 100 in the city.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week: “We have not found any proof that Britain is not involved in the events in Ahvaz and we have not seen anything that would dissipate our doubts about that country”.
The British embassy expressed its “revulsion at and condemnation of” the bombings, but dismissed the Iranian accusations.