New Iran sanctions put freeze on assets

by Masami Ito

Tokyo announced additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programs Friday, including freezing assets of individuals and organizations related to the work, and suspending new Japanese investment in oil and gas development there.

The fresh measures follow a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in June after Iran refused to adhere to its obligations under the International Atomic Energy Agency and stop its nuclear programs, including uranium enrichment.

“The international community should unite to steadily implement the Security Council resolution,” Okada told a morning Cabinet meeting. “It is important that we maintain a window of dialogue with Iran while consistently demanding that it make a wise decision.”

The new sanctions, however, don’t include restrictions on importing crude oil. Iran is Japan’s third-biggest supplier.

According to the Japan External Trade Organization, the nation imported goods worth $9.3 billion from Iran in 2009, of which more than 95 percent was oil.

Tokyo has long had a friendly relationship with Tehran, and these sanctions could affect bilateral ties, including in the business realm.

During a news conference later Friday, Okada expressed hope that Iran will clear itself of suspicions it is developing nuclear weapons.

“This is our country’s hope and wish toward Iran, a longtime friend of Japan,” he said.

The sanctions will freeze the assets of 88 institutions and 24 individuals suspected of being linked to nuclear development, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines.