UAE keen to protect Iran trade despite sanctions: reports

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AFP: The United Arab Emirates is keen to protect legitimate trade with Iran even though it is enforcing tough new sanctions against its neighbour across the Gulf, media reports said on Tuesday.

DUBAI, August 17, 2010 (AFP) – The United Arab Emirates is keen to protect legitimate trade with Iran even though it is enforcing tough new sanctions against its neighbour across the Gulf, media reports said on Tuesday.

Iran is a significant UAE trading partner, with trade volume between it and the emirate of Dubai alone estimated at about 10 billion dollars a year, mostly imports from the Islamic republic.

“I think it is extremely important to have that balance right, between our international commitments on the one hand and also between the fact that a lot of the transactions that we do have are legitimate,” the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, was quoted as saying in Gulf News.

Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, made a similar remark in The National newspaper.

“We do a significant amount of trade with Iran. It cannot be all illicit and it can’t be all illegal,” Otaiba said according to The National.

“What we’re trying to do is sift the good from the bad, and make sure nothing legitimate gets harmed by sanctions,” he said.

But despite this, the Gulf emirate was implementing the UN sanctions “very openly,” said Otaiba.

“That is not something up for debate,” added the envoy who was speaking at a conference in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

Gargash said for his part that the United Arab Emirates was committed to “the global consensus that usually produces (UN) Security Council resolutions.”

Their remarks came after the UAE central bank ordered the freezing of 41 bank accounts targeted by the new sanctions on Iran, according to Emirates Business daily.

The UAE business and aviation transport hub of Dubai also closed down the offices of 40 firms suspected of breaching the sanctions against Iran, Gulf News reported.

The reports followed a visit to the UAE by US Undersecretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey, who was in the country on Sunday and Monday, the US embassy said.

Levey is on a tour of the UAE, Bahrain and Lebanon this week “to discuss the new UN Security Council Resolution last June imposing a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran,” official WAM news quoted him as saying.

He warned that “as Iran becomes more isolated and is driven from other markets, there will be greater attempts to engage in evasive conduct and therefore simply keeping a steady vigilance is not good enough,” WAM said.

The Security Council hit Iran with the fresh sanctions on June 9 over its nuclear programme.

The United States and European Union have since imposed even tougher punitive measures of their own which contain provisions to penalise Tehran’s trading partners.