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US critical of Swiss energy deal with Iran

Published on 20/03/2008

19 March 2008

Washington (dpa) – The United States criticized Switzerland Wednesday for signing an energy deal with Iran because the Islamic state has refused to comply with UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

"We don’t think that now is the time for people to be investing in Iran, not only in its petroleum or natural gas area, but in any sector of its economy," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.

The Iranian and Swiss foreign ministers signed the gas agreement on Monday in Tehran. Under the deal, Iran will provide the Swiss firm Elektrizitaets-Gesellschaft Laufenburg 5.5 billion cubic metres of gas per year starting in 2011. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

The United States has sought to discourage countries from doing business with Iran over suspicions Iran is enriching uranium for a clandestine nuclear weapons programme.

The UN Security Council has passed three rounds of limited sanctions on the Iranian regime for refusing to halt the enrichment, but the measure does not prohibit investment in Iran’s energy sector.

Countries that invest more than 20 million dollars annually in Iran’s energy sector face possible sanctions under US law.

"As we get more details about this, we’ll be looking at that particular deal in the light of US law and see whether it crosses any lines there," Casey said.

[Copyright dpa 2008]