US lawmakers call for sanctions against Tanzania over Iran tankers By CITIZEN Reporter and Agencies | Thursday, August 16 2012 at 11:30
US lawmakers are pressuring their government to take action against Tanzania which has been accused of flouting American sanctions by reflagging Iranian tankers.
Mr Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that a US bill signed into law this month authorised sanctions against anyone who re-registers Iranian oil tankers.
The issue came to light in July when Mr Berman accused Tanzania of reflagging at least six and possibly as many as 10 Iranian tankers, saying it was helping Iran evade US and European Union sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran to abandon its nuclear programme.
Tanzanian Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe admitted in Parliament earlier this month that Zanzibar had re-registered some Iranian ships through an agent based in Dubai, and said that the government was working to establish the facts before taking appropriate action.
Contacted for comment Wednesday, Mr Membe said he had not seen the US report and asked for time before responding, but did not pick up our calls.
Efforts to get a response on the matter from the ministry's permanent secretary John Haule also failed.
Mr Berman did not specify what action should be taken, but noted that the law authorises penalties.
He said the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu had also helped Iran by reflagging 22 Iranian oil tankers operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), despite warnings that it could face US sanctions.
But the US House committee appeared to soften its stance against Tanzania following reports that the country was in the process of deregistering the reflagged Iranian ships.
Mr Berman said while Tanzania had made progress, Tuvalu was still ignoring pressure from the international community.
“The US has had some success, most recently with the announcement by the Government of Tanzania that it is de-registering NITC vessels. However, with other governments, the US must take more robust action,” Mr Berman wrote to Mrs Clinton and Mr Geithner.
While Mr Berman focused on Tuvalu, in a separate letter Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk called for sanctions against both Tanzania and Tuvalu for reflagging ships.
“The actions of the Tanzanian and Tuvaluan ship registries directly undermine the international community’s ongoing diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear and ballistic missile technology, and appear to be in violation of the legislation you just signed into law,” Mr Menendez and Mr Kirk said in a letter to US President Barack Obama.
Last week, Zanzibar Second Vice President Seif Ali Idd told the House of Representatives that the Zanzibar Marine Authority (ZMA) was misled by the Dubai-based agent, Philtex, into registering the Iranian ships on its behalf.
He said that plans were underway to sever relations with the agent.
“The government has thoroughly investigated this issue and established that the Zanzibar Maritime Authority, through our Dubai-based agent, Philtex, registered 36 Iranian oil tankers and container vessels to fly the Tanzanian flag,” he said adding:
“The Zanzibar government is in the process of de-registering the ships and also terminating its agency contract with Philtex after establishing that these (Iranian) ships are indeed flying the Tanzanian flag.”
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