- General said Israel would face fierce retaliation if it attacks
- EU has imposed new raft of sanctions against Iran in effort to make country halt nuclear programme
- European satellite provider took 19 Iranian television and radio broadcasters off the air
The acting commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has warned that the country is prepared for ‘global battles’ if its nuclear sites are attacked.
General Hossein Salami said Israel will ‘definitely’ face fierce retaliation if it attacks Iranian nuclear sites.
His words, reported by the semiofficial ISNA news agency, seem to be part of Iran’s efforts to portray any strike as the trigger for a regional conflict.
The implication is that such a clash could draw in Iranian proxies, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, on Israel’s borders.
He spoke on the sidelines of urban combat drills in Tehran by 15,000 paramilitary fighters known as Basiji, who are controlled by the Revolutionary Guard.
The exercises were dubbed ‘Ila Beit ol Moqaddas,’ or Toward the Holy City, meaning Jerusalem. The war games include drills on defending against mock air raids and other threats.
The European Union is currently imposing new sanctions against Iran in a bid to force the country to come clean about its nuclear programme.
A meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday imposed restrictive measures intended to hit the country’s treasury and increase pressure on its Islamic regime headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Meanwhile, a leading European satellite provider took 19 Iranian television and radio broadcasters off the air, a result of earlier sanctions which prompted accusations of censorship and threats to sue from Iranian state television.
European Union governments imposed sanctions on Tuesday against major state companies in the oil and gas industry and strengthened restrictions on the central bank, cranking up financial pressure.
More than 30 firms and institutions were listed in the EU’s Official Journal as targets for asset freezes in the EU, including the National Iranian Oil Company, a large crude exporter, and the National Iranian Tanker Company.
Both are vital to the Iranian oil industry, the main source of revenue for the government, and are growing increasingly important in recent months as the EU and U.S. seek to reduce Tehran’s access to cash by forcing Western companies to halt trade with Iran.
Worry: Both German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, left, and Britain’s William Hague spoke positively about the sanctions imposed on Iran at Monday’s EU meeting in Luxembourg
Monday’s meeting approved ‘additional restrictive measures in the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors’ against Iran as well as imposing asset freezes and trade restrictions on more companies.
Iran is still refusing to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its nuclear programme, something the Luxembourg meeting said was ‘acting in flagrant violation of its international obligations.’
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the ministers had also banned the import of Iranian natural gas into EU nations.
The EU ministers also agreed to prohibit all transactions between EU and Iranian banks unless they were authorised in advance for humanitarian reasons.
They tightened restrictions on the Central Bank of Iran and imposed more export restrictions ‘notably for graphite, metals, software for industrial purposes, as well as measures related to the shipbuilding industry.’
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the Iranian Resistance, an organisation seeking to oust Ahmadinejad’s regime, welcomed the decision to expand sanctions.
She called the move ‘an essential step to preclude this regime from acquiring nuclear weapons,’ and asked the EU to sever all economic and commercial ties with Iran.
On his way into Monday’s meeting, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said new sanctions would be ‘a sign of our resolve in the European Union that we will step up the pressure.’
Hague said such pressure would continue to mount ‘over the coming months unless negotiations succeed. We remain open of course to success of negotiations.’
Many countries fear that Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons but Iranian officials say the nuclear programme is intended solely for peaceful purposes.
Possible base: An alleged facility in Natanaz, Iran which the regime also claims is completely harmless
The European broadcast satellite cutoff means state broadcaster Irib’s television channels are no longer shown in Europe and elsewhere.
Satellite provider Eutelsat agreed with media services company Arqiva to block Irib’s nine TV channels and ten radio stations as of Monday morning because of ‘reinforced EU council sanctions,’ Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O’Connor said.
Irib was targeted in a round of EU sanctions against Iran adopted in March after European officials said its broadcasts violated human rights.
Iran’s state-run Press TV said Irib could take legal action against Eutelsat over the cutoff ‘to compensate for any material and spiritual damages.’
Press TV says it was among the channels cut by the Eutelsat decision. Others include Farsi-language channels for Iranian expatriates and Arabic-language offerings, including the news channel Al-Alam.
In a statement, Press TV said the move ‘shows that the European Union does not respect freedom of speech and is a step to mute all alternative news outlets representing the voice of the voiceless.’