Monday, July 02, 2012

Tanzania must stop re-flagging Iran tankers: U.S. lawmaker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tanzania must stop the practice of "re-flagging" Iranian oil tankers or it will face the threat of U.S. sanctions and damage its ties with Washington, a U.S. lawmaker warned on Friday.

Howard Berman, the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, accused Tanzania of reflagging at least six and possibly as many at 10 tankers owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company.

"This action by your government has the effect of assisting the Iranian regime in evading U.S. and EU sanctions and generating additional revenues for its nuclear enrichment and weapons research program and its support for international terrorism," Berman said in a letter to President Jakaya Kikwete that was obtained by Reuters.

Berman said if the tankers were allowed to continue sailing under the Tanzanian flag, Tanzania could face the sanctions that President Barack Obama signed into law.

He said Congress would also have "no choice" but to consider whether to continue the range of bilateral U.S. programs with Tanzania.
Officials at Tanzania's embassy were not immediately available to comment on Berman's letter.

The sanctions, along with similar action by the European Union, are aimed at pressuring Iran to curb its nuclear program, which the West believes aims to develop nuclear weapons but which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

The United States gave China a six-month reprieve from Iran financial sanctions on Thursday. The Obama administration has now spared all 20 of Iran's major oil buyers from its unilateral sanctions, rewarding them for cutting purchases of Iranian oil.

(Reporting By Russ Blinch; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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