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Thursday, April 29, 1999 Published at 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK


World: Americas

Iran slams US over sanctions

The US will allow food exports to Sudan, which it bombed in 1998

Iran says the United States move to lift sanctions on humanitarian goods is the result of pressure from American companies, which had missed out on tens of billions of dollars of lost trade.

In the first reaction to Washington's announcement on Wednesday to allow the sale of food and medicines to the country, Iranian radio said sanctions were aimed at countries opposing "America's attempts to dominate them".

However, it said sanctions had only succeeded in preventing the US from doing business with more than 40 countries.

Washington also lifted sanctions on food and medicine exports to Libya and Sudan, following a major policy change.

The decision means that food and medicines can be sold to Sudan, Libya, Iran and other countries covered by unilateral US sanctions.

US firms 'deprived'

Tehran radio, the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, referred on Thursday to the "growing pressure of the American firms, which demand greater involvement in the global economic markets, against America's unilateral sanctions".

"The only outcome of these sanctions has been the deprivation of American firms from the economic markets in more than 40 countries of the world," the radio said.

The US said on Wednesday that restricting humanitarian goods hurt innocent people, did not weaken their regimes, damaged America's image abroad, and was bad for US business.


[ image: President Bashir's government halted wheat imports]
President Bashir's government halted wheat imports
The Clinton administration has said that the change will improve trade with countries under sanctions.

The new rules may clear the way for the sale of some $500m of grain and other goods to Tehran by US firm Niki Trading Co.

The move has also been welcomed by groups such as USA Engage, an umbrella group of US businesses, as the first step towards a much needed reform and rationalisation of US sanctions policy.

The group, which includes powerful American oil companies, has also called for a relaxation of sanctions prohibiting US oil companies from investing in Iran or using it as an export route.

A BBC correspondent says that American oil firms have watched with frustration as their European competitors have rushed to seize investment opportunities in Iran. The US firms are therefore likely to increase pressure on Washington for further reform.

'No benefit to Sudan'

For its part, Sudan was dismissive of the easing of sanctions.

Issam Siddiq, economic adviser to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, said in the Alwan newspaper: "Sudan does not benefit from the American decision, as it does not import food and medicines from Washington and the aim of the decision is support for (American) farmers and producers."

The Sudanese used to import American wheat, but stopped after President Bashir's government seized power in 1989. However some Khartoum businessmen are reported to believe that imported wheat would still be cheaper than that grown locally.

Improving relations

Diplomatic Correspondent Barnaby Mason says that the easing of sanctions, though a small step, is likely to improve America's chances of moving towards the normalisation of relations.

Our correspondent says that process has already begun in Libya's case with the suspension of UN sanctions after Colonel Gaddafi handed over the two Lockerbie suspects.



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