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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

US criticises European aid package for Iran

Washington's top envoy said it sent 'wrong message at wrong time'

An Iranian street money exchanger holds US dollars and Euro banknotes, in a street as some exchange shops bring back their rate boards. EPA
An Iranian street money exchanger holds US dollars and Euro banknotes, in a street as some exchange shops bring back their rate boards. EPA

The top US envoy on Iran criticised a European Union decision to give $20.7 million in aid to Tehran on Friday, saying it sent “the wrong message at the wrong time”, and he urged Brussels to help Washington end the Iranian threat to global stability.

"Foreign aid from European taxpayers perpetuates the regime's ability to neglect the needs of its people and stifles meaningful policy changes," Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, said in a statement.

"The Iranian people face very real economic pressures caused by their government's corruption, mismanagement, and deep investment in terrorism and foreign conflicts," he added. "The United States and the European Union should be working together instead to find lasting solutions that truly support Iran's people and end the regime's threats to regional and global stability."

The EU decision on Thursday to provide 18 million euros ($20.7 million) in aid to Iran was aimed at offsetting the impact of US sanctions as European countries try to salvage the 2015 agreement that saw Tehran limit its nuclear ambitions.

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal in May and is reimposing sanctions on Tehran, even as other parties to the accord are trying to find ways to save the agreement.

The EU funding is part of a wider package of 50 million euros earmarked in the EU budget for Iran, which has threatened to stop complying with the nuclear accord if it fails to see the economic benefit of relief from sanctions.

The United States is pressing other countries to comply with its sanctions.

"More money in the hands of the ayatollah means more money to conduct assassinations in those very European countries," Mr Hook said in his statement.

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US national security adviser John Bolton told Reuters during a visit to Israel earlier this week that the return of US sanctions was having a strong effect on Iran's economy and popular opinion.

The US sanctions dusted off this month targeted Iran's car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of US dollars crucial to international financing and investment and trade relations. Farther-reaching sanctions are to follow in November on Iran's banking sector and oil exports.

On Friday, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said some members of oil producer group OPEC were acting in accordance with U.S. policies, Iran's Khaneye Mellat news agency reported.

"Some members are interpreting the latest OPEC decision on oil output differently ... and are acting in accordance with the policies of the US," the agency quoted Mr Zanganeh as saying.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed with Russia and other oil-producing allies in June to raise output from July, with Iran's arch-rival Saudi Arabia pledging a "measurable" supply boost but giving no specific numbers.

Iran told OPEC this month that no member country should be allowed to take over another member's share of oil exports, expressing concern about a Saudi offer to pump more crude amid US sanctions on Iranian oil sales starting in November.