Iran Plans Missile Tests; U.S. Warns of Sanctions

by Louis Charbonneau, Reuters

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said companies should beware of doing business with Iran and think about the possibility more sanctions will be imposed on it.

"I think people ought to think about the risk of doing business with Iran," Rice told Der Spiegel magazine, according to an English transcript of the interview.

"I think people ought to think about the risk of further sanctions. The United States is clearly sanctioning Iranian banks and our laws are very tough on those who deal with banks that we have sanctioned."

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a sanctions resolution on December 23 at the behest of the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Germany. The resolution gave Iran 60 days to suspend nuclear fuel enrichment activity.

European Union foreign ministers meet on Monday in Brussels to consider how to ensure the sanctions are fully implemented, government and diplomatic sources said on Friday.

After joint talks in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said both she and Russian President Vladimir Putin were in agreement that taking Iran to the Security Council had been the right thing to do.

"But we also agree that it is still important to make it clear to Iran that the door to talks remains open, if Iran accepts the proposal of the European Union," Merkel said, referring to the EU's offer of incentives last June in return for abandoning its nuclear enrichment program.

Putin called for "a resolution of the nuclear problem using purely diplomatic methods."

The U.N. sanctions resolution bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials to Iran, freezes financial assets of those associated with the nuclear program and asks countries to pass on information about the whereabouts of individuals on the list.

The EU may expand the list of people linked to Tehran's nuclear program targeted by the U.N. resolution, sources said.

The U.S. Treasury has also named Iran's state-owned Bank Sepah as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and no U.S. company or citizen is permitted do business with it.

European diplomats have said the United States is already thinking about further steps, one of which may be an oil embargo against Iran.

Asked what kinds of sanctions Washington would like imposed if Tehran ignores the 60-day deadline, Rice told Der Spiegel: "We'll talk to the allies about what do in the next round."

Rice repeated that Washington considers Iran a troublemaker in neighboring Iraq by supporting insurgents with money and bombs. But she insisted Washington was not looking for an escalation of the conflict with Tehran.

We are not trying to escalate this. Our plan is to try to respond to Iranian activity that is harming us," Rice said in Der Spiegel in an interview published on Sunday.

She also repeated that Washington was not interested in talking with Iran and Syria about the future of Iraq.

"If the Iranians and the Syrians wish to support stability in Iraq, there are plenty of ways for them to do it," Rice said.

"The only reason to talk to us would be to extract a price, and that's not diplomacy, that's extortion."

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