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Huge boost in licensed UK sales to Iran

London, June 8, IRNA -- The British government issued more than twice as many licenses for sales of strategic exports to Iran last year, boosting the value by more than 50-fold.

According to the Foreign Office's latest annual report on strategic exports, the value of licensed sales to Iran surged to pnds 545 million (dlrs 1 billion) compared to only pnds 11 million in 2002.

In the process, the UK approved 170 Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) in 2003, up from 76 issued in the previous year.

This was despite the UK government maintaining a unilateral sanctions regime against Iran that dates back to the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war.

Over 90 percent of the total value of SIEL applications were for licenses for dual-use inspection tools on civilian aviation engines.

But despite the surge in approvals, 26 licenses were still rejected, equivalent to 13 percent of applications. The refusal included only two items on the UK's so-called military list, while the remainder were classified as other goods.

The report also shows that the British government issued or amended three Open Individual Export Licenses for Iran that were not valued but covered components and military parts used for civil aero- engines and protection equipment.

The growth in strategic exports comes after the UK, for the first time, normalized its license assessments last year by no longer making Iran an exception to the procedure of providing responses to applications within 20 days. Previously there was no time limit.

Announcing the relaxation in March 2003, Foreign Office Minister Michael O'Brien said the government was scrapping the mandatory scrutiny of export licences under the so-called Iran Working Group in order to "reduce delays for UK exporters."

The normal procedure is to assess license applications on a case- by-case basis against the UK national criteria, including the risk of weapons of mass destruction proliferation.

Iran was uniquely singled out by the UK's imposition of unilateral sanctions more than 20 years ago using its emergency powers.

The embargo was later clarified in the ministerial statements of 1993 and 1998 following the Scott report into the "arms-for Iraq" scandal.

... Payvand News - 6/8/04 ... --

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