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      European Nations, Turkey Ignore UN Sanctions Against Iran

      Five European nations, plus Turkey and North Korea, have been ignoring sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 4/30/2009, 3:10 PM / Last Update: 4/30/2009, 3:40 PM

      Israel News Photo

      Five European nations, as well as Turkey, have ignored the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council in the past year, according to state-run Iranian media.

      The head of the Iranian Trade Promotion Agency, Mehdi Ghazanfari, told the IRNA news agency that Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and the United Kingdom have carried out some $15.4 billion in bilateral trade with Iran over the past year.

      Ghazanfari said the European states were "keen on continuing bilateral economic cooperation with Iran," despite the U.N. sanctions.

      Turkey has gone even farther, according to Bahman Hosseinpour, the Islamic Republic's Ambassador to Ankara.

      Hosseinpour told participants at a business seminar focusing on Iran-Turkey ties that trade volume between the two countries has reached a record $12 billion this year alone, according to the Fars news agency.

      A delegation of 170 Iranian exporters and other business owners traveled to Ankara this week for talks aimed at expanding commercial ties between the two nations.

      Economic and trade sanctions were imposed against Iran by the U.N. Security Council in the hopes of forcing the country to abandon its uranium enrichment program. However, Iran has continued to advance its nuclear development programs, and contends that its operations are geared towards production of energy for peaceful domestic purposes. Israel and the United States, as well as a number of other Western nations, believe Iran is developing an atomic weapon of mass destruction.

      North Korea Trading in Nukes
      European nations are not the only ones who are disregarding the U.N. ban on trade with Iran. More ominously, North Korea appears to be supplying the Islamic Republic with nuclear fuel.

      According to a report earlier this month in the Japanese Nikkei newspaper, North Korea secretly shipped enriched uranium to Iran. The report said "Western intelligence agencies" were investigating whether a ship laden with tons of enriched uranium traveled from North Korea last December, traveling through the Indian Ocean towards Iran. The suspected hidden cargo was then allegedly shipped by land route to Tehran.

      "The bulk of the (transferred) materials appears to be medium-level enriched uranium," said the source quoted by Nikkei. "It could be further enriched to weapons grade in Iranian facilities."

      U.S. Considers Tighter Sanctions
      The U.S. Congress is mulling over legislation that would tighten economic sanctions on foreign shipping and oil companies that aid Iran.

      Earlier in the week Democrats and Republicans banded together to introduce a bipartisan proposal that would empower President Barack Obama to make it tougher for the Islamic Republic to conduct "business as usual."

      The new law would freeze the assets of American companies that do business with Iran. Several major oil firms and their subsidiaries could be affected by the bill, including BP, Shell, Vitol and Reliance.

      Foreign companies would be stopped from doing business in the United States under the new legislation. Shipping firms and companies who insure the ships that deliver fuel to Iran could also be targeted.

      Iran has been buying up to 40 percent of its gasoline from outside the country these days due to its limited ability to refine its own crude oil.