Thursday, April 10, 2008

Switzerland in love with Iran

Switzerland shrugs off Jewish G attack on Iran
LONDON, April 10 (IranNews)

Switzerland shrugged off a renewed attack over a gas supply deal with Iran Wednesday, after a Jewish group took out full page ads in international and Swiss newspapers charging that the country is funding terror, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Industry leaders and the government reiterated that international laws and regulations were respected in the deal and that the allegations by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) "did not correspond to the facts".

Advertisements headed, "Guess who is the world's newest financier of terrorism? Switzerland," appeared in the International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times on Tuesday.

In Switzerland, the advertisements in newspapers Le Matin Bleu, Le Temps, and Neue Zuercher Zeitung charged: "When you finance a terrorist state, you finance terrorism."

Explaining the move, the ADL said it is "concerned that Iran's profits from the energy deal could help the regime to accelerate and complete its nuclear weapons program".

It could also "provide tens of thousands of additional missiles to Hezbollah and Hamas, two terrorist groups and sworn enemies of Israel who routinely benefit from Tehran's largesse," the ADL said.

The deal, signed during Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey's visit to Tehran mid-March, had earlier come under sharp condemnation from the United States and Israel.

Financial details were not disclosed but the contract between Iran's state gas firm and Switzerland's Elektrizitaets-Gesellschaft (EGL) Laufenburg reportedly envisages Iran supplying 5.5 bln cubic metres (194 trln cubic feet) of gas annually from 2011.

A Swiss foreign ministry spokesman stressed Wednesday that the state of Switzerland is not involved in the deal.

But he said the contract "is in full conformity with the existing UN sanctions against Iran", as well as the US Iran Sanctions Act.

He also pointed out that there are at least 10 other countries with major energy deals with Iran, including Japan, France and Italy.

While he would not comment on specific elements in the advertisements, he said that "all those reproaches in those paid ads do not correspond with the facts".

Swiss industry leaders too, were unfazed by the criticism.

EGL spokesman Bogdan Preda said Wednesday he had no further comment on the issue, other than to reiterate that the deal "respected all national and international agreements".

The president of Swiss energy group Axpo, of which EGL is a member, Heinz Karrer, told tabloid Blick that it is "incomprehensible" that Switzerland is seen to be financing terrorism, pointing out that "many other countries" also obtain energy from Iran.

Head of the Economie Suisse business umbrella group Gerold Buehrer also told the newspaper that he "stood behind the deal at the beginning", and that he "still stands behind it".

The US embassy in Bern said at the time that it believes the deal "violates the spirit of the sanctions" imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council in a bid to try to force Iran to give up its programme of uranium enrichment and cooperate further with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Even Calmy-Rey's visit itself was keenly watched, with Swiss politicians and observers criticising her for wearing a headscarf in Iran.

"Just like an oppressed woman!" charged the headline of the tabloid Le Matin, which splashed a picture of Calmy-Rey with the scarf on its front page.

Calmy-Rey justified her action by saying that "I have always been told that when you are a guest, you respect local customs."


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