Berlin and Vienna Block EU Iran Sanctions

In an interview that appeared in the German daily Handelsblatt on Tuesday (Oct. 9), the Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik made public Austria’s opposition to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal for EU economic sanctions against Iran. According to previous reports in the German press, the German Foreign Ministry has been leading the opposition to the Sarkozy proposal. Plassnik met with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin on Monday.

“The basis for Iran sanctions are U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Plassnik told the Handelsblatt, “France is free to push for changes. Our position remains unchanged.” EU Foreign Ministers are scheduled to meet to discuss the Iran issue on Oct. 15. In light of the Austrian and German opposition, the Handelsblatt concludes (link in German), “there is thought to be no chance that the French proposal will be adopted.”

In her interview with the Handelsblatt, Plassnik also rejected American calls for countries to put pressure on companies to limit their business with Iran, regardless of U.N. resolutions: a policy that, as the paper points out, would have particular consequences for Austria. The Handelsblatt writes (link in German):

Austria has come into the sights of the U.S. government, because the [Austrian] energy company OMV is very active in Iran. OMV is interested in developing a natural gas field in Iran and building a gas liquefaction plant. In addition, there are plans to connect Iran to the planned Nabucco gas pipeline that will run from the Caspian Sea to Europe. The American government has protested against these projects, which do not, however, contravene the U.N. resolutions. “We are applying the sanctions decided upon by the U.N. down to the last period and comma,” Plassnik emphasized, “and that’s it” [dabei bleibt es].

For more on European divisions on Iran, see “Berlin and Vienna Stand Against the West: European Divisions on the Iranian Bomb,” by Matthias Küntzel.