Iran inks payback law to expel British ambassador

Bill approved to cut back ties with Britain in retaliation for fresh sanctions
Iran inks payback law to expel British ambassador
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied the Persian state is operating a nuclear programme
By Reuters
Tue 29 Nov 2011 07:38 AM

A
bill to downgrade Iran's ties with Britain got final approval on Monday a day
after parliament approved the measure compelling the government to expel the
British ambassador in retaliation for sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear
activity.

The
exceptionally rapid move by the Guardian Council, a panel of 12 clerics and
jurists who judge whether legislation is Islamic, reflects the urgency with
which Iran is treating its reaction to the sanctions announced by Britain last
week.

Britain
acted after a Nov 8 report by the UN nuclear watchdog presenting intelligence
it said suggested Iran had worked on designing an atom bomb. Iran says the
intelligence is forged and that its nuclear programme has wholly peaceful aims.

"The
members of the Guardian Council, after examination of the plan, have approved
it unanimously," council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai was quoted as saying
on the website of the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB.

The
bill requires the departure of the British ambassador within two weeks, leaving
the embassy to be run by a charge d'affaires. The British government has called
the legislation "regrettable" and "unwarranted".

Passed
by legislators who chanted "Death to England" on Sunday, the law
looked like a payback for London's decision to ban British banks from dealing
with Iranian ones, including the Central Bank of Iran (CBI).

Members
of parliament said Iran would take similar action against any other countries
that follow Britain's example.

European
Union foreign ministers are due to meet on Thursday to approve new sanctions
that could cut financial links and ban oil imports from Iran over suspicions
that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iranian
media reported that Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had been refused entry to
EU air space to attend a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of
Chemical Weapons in the Netherlands on Monday.

Student
news agency ISNA said Tehran had summoned the Hungarian ambassador to explain
why Salehi's plane had been refused permission to cross the EU country's air
space, quoting an Iranian foreign ministry source saying technical problems
cited by Hungarian authorities were "unconvincing".

The
Hungarian and Iranian foreign ministries were not immediately available for
comment.

The
European measures are part of a US-led drive to isolate the Islamic Republic
and force it to suspend uranium enrichment, which Tehran says is its sovereign
right but which the West says looks suspiciously like an atom bomb programme.

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Washington
stopped short of imposing sanctions that would stop other countries dealing
with Iran's central bank, considered a "nuclear option" due to the
devastating effect it could have on Iran's oil-based economy.

The
central bank receives payment for the more than 2 million barrels of oil Iran
exports each day, so cutting it off from the global financial system would be a
hammer blow.

The
United States did declare the CBI an area of "primary money laundering
concern," a step designed to dissuade non-US banks from dealing with it.
The bank denied the charge.

"The
financial resources of the CBI are principally from the sale of oil and its
derivatives which are deposited with this bank on the basis of the country's
monetary and banking law, and they are managed by the international banking
system," the CBI said in a statement on its website.

"The
alleged performing of laundering operations on this source is a completely
baseless and unprofessional claim."

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