Title: U.S. INVESTIGATING IRAN DEALS (State Department will determine whether to apply sanctions)
Author: Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent
New York -- The United States is looking into business deals government-linked companies in France, Russia, and Malaysia have made with Iran to determine whether to apply U.S. sanctions laws against those companies, a State Department spokesman said September 29.
Asked about reports of a $2,000 million contract between the French oil company Total Oil Group and Iran, State Department Spokesman James Rubin said that "we regret this decision by Total. We will investigate this deal in light of the sanctions law, and we will take whatever action is appropriate under the law."
"We do not believe that this law regulates or prohibits conduct by parties outside the United States," Rubin said. "What it does do is deny certain benefits in the United States to persons who choose to engage in conduct described in the law."
"We must first, however, ensure that we have all the facts and that we determine whether the act itself constitutes sanctionable activity," he said. "I cannot anticipate the results of any such review."
"When we're in a position where conclusions have been reached by the interagency review, those will be forwarded to the secretary of state for her consideration," Rubin said.
The Iran-Libya Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996, authorizes President Clinton and the secretary of state to impose sanctions on any company investing more than $40 million in either country because of both governments' ties with terrorism. The law allows a variety of choices on how to deal with the companies. They range from waiving any sanctions or imposing minor penalties to barring the companies from trading with the United States.
The United States has had a particularly difficult time in the last year with its European allies over imposing similar sanctions against foreign companies that deal with Cuba as required by the Helms-Burton Act.
Rubin said that during Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's meetings with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine in New York at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly "the subject of possible action that could be inconsistent with our laws was discussed."
Rubin said that the United States has discussed "the law and its application and our concerns" with Total, the Russian corporation Gazprom, and Malaysia's energy company Petronas.
"We have brought our concerns to the attention of the governments which have jurisdiction over the companies involved, and we will be raising this issue further," Rubin said.
"It's our view, as this law's intent makes clear, that the world should focus on how to prevent Iran from having the money to pay attention to or finance weapons of mass destruction, and that's the most sure and most safe way to prevent this regime from getting weapons," he said.
The State Department spokesman noted that the United States has been working closely with European countries on Iran. He pointed out that while the areas of disagreement get media attention "there are a number of areas of agreement" that have not.
"In the wake of last April's Mykonos trial verdict, the European Union did suspend their critical dialogue with Iran. They have adopted a package of measures, including suspension of official bilateral ministerial visits. They publicly confirmed a de facto arms embargo, and they have worked closely with us in recent months and years to ensure that they're working on multilateral export control regimes so that Iran does not develop weapons of mass destruction," Rubin said.
Rubin also said that during Albright's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, the secretary discussed Russian-Iranian cooperation.
"Again, we believe our goals are the same -- and that is to deny Iran the technology to develop weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems for those weapons," he said.
"We have been working on specific cases, going through in great detail what information we have and what steps we think would be best suited to prevent Iran from getting such technology," he said.
Albright also brought up Iran's threat to the Gulf region and the importance of taking a firm stand on the regime during her meeting with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council on September 29, the spokesman also said.
Albright "was struck after that meeting (by) the uniformity of views about the threat that Iran poses to the region, especially by countries in the Gulf," Rubin said. NNNN
Product Name: WASHINGTON FILE
Document Type: ARTICLE
Keywords: iran deals; oil-for-food 2e #ja /jln kf
Thematic Codes: 2e
Originating Team: 97093002.GNE