“There is clearly a gap between our actions and our rhetoric.”
“British aid mocks sanctions threat against Iran,” by Jonathan Leake and Sarah Baxter for The Sunday Times:
The government faces a diplomatic row with America over disclosures that it has provided the Iranian regime with financial support worth about Â£290m while at the same time calling for sanctions.
The money was offered by the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) to support British firms exporting to Iran, mainly to the country”s petrochemical industry.
Many of the loans were being negotiated while British ministers were threatening sanctions against Iran for creating a nuclear enrichment facility to make atomic weapons.
Last week Gordon Brown called for new sanctions against Iran in addition to those already imposed by the United Nations security council. The prime minister wants a ban on investment in the oil and gas industries if Iran does not agree to end the production of enriched uranium.
This weekend government sources signalled their embarrassment over the ECGD”s activities. “There is clearly a gap between our actions and our rhetoric,” said one Whitehall insider.
The US administration has been privately lobbying Britain to end the financial support. Stuart Levey, the US Treasury official responsible for terrorism and financial intelligence, stepped up the pressure in private discussions with British ministers in London in July, claiming that such export credits were inconsistent with UN sanctions.
Danielle Pletka, an expert on trade links with Iran at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said: “You can’t subsidise with one hand and sanction with the other.
Britain is saying the European Union needs to do more but it needs to lead by example, not just by its mouth.”
The government is also under political pressure at home. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said: “Our government must make up its mind about export credit guarantees to Iran. Britain should lead the way with a clear, unequivocal commitment to banning new export credit guarantees to Iran.”
Last week the Foreign Office said that money earned by the Iranian oil industry was used to support its nuclear enrichment programme and the Iraq insurgency.