Statement by Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith on Iran

October 15, 2008

The Australian Government is deeply concerned at Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing-related activities as required by multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

As the House knows, Iran's secret nuclear program was revealed in 2002.

Since then, Australia has urged Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to take the steps necessary to reassure the entire international community about the nature of its nuclear activities.

The international community has responded through the adoption of four UNSC resolutions which require Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, and to meet the IAEA's verification requirements.

Three UNSC resolutions have imposed sanctions, including travel and financial restrictions against those engaged in Iran's proliferation sensitive activities.

Australia supports each of these binding resolutions, and has implemented these sanctions fully.

While the international community believes it is necessary to bring pressure to bear on Iran, it has also reached out.

In particular, the European Union foreign policy chief Solana on behalf of the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China and Germany has offered a generous incentives package in exchange for Iran's suspension of its enrichment activities.

Australia has strongly supported this initiative and has urged Iran to accept it.

Unfortunately, Iran has refused to take up this offer and to provide the necessary reassurances.

To supplement these UN sanctions, the EU decided recently to impose additional autonomous travel and financial sanctions.

Members will recall that on 15 September, the IAEA again confirmed that Iran persisted with uranium enrichment and reprocessing-related activities and had refused to give it access to all relevant facilities.

The IAEA also reported it had detailed information suggesting Iran has conducted studies into nuclear weapons and that Iranian military entities have been involved in nuclear procurement.

This information further deepened our concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions.

As I told the House on 17 September, in light of Iran's continuing failure to comply with its international obligations, the Government would consider what additional measures it could take to bring further pressure to bear on Iran.

In response to on-going Iranian defiance of the Security Council and given the Government's strong commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, the Government has now decided to impose new financial and travel sanctions effective from today.

The sanctions are targeted against 20 Iranian individuals and 18 organisations which contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, or otherwise assist Iran to violate its Security Council obligations.

These organisations include Iranian banks Melli and Saderat.

The new measures support and are similar to the action recently taken by the European Union.

The new measures are not intended to prevent legitimate Australian trade with Iran.

However, the Government will implement vigorously the Security Council's call through UNSCR 1803 to be vigilant about providing financial support for trade with Iran, so as to avoid contributing to Iran's proliferation-sensitive activities.

To this end, Australia will not provide new financial support for trade with Iran under Australia's trade promotion and trade finance programs, namely through the Export Finance Insurance Corporation and Export Market Development Grants.

The Government will, together with the international community, continue to engage with Iran to urge it to suspend uranium enrichment.

I take this opportunity to address a separate matter relating to Iran.

The Australian Government has strongly condemned the statements by Iranian President Ahmadinejad calling for the destruction of Israel and questioning the Holocaust.

These anti-Semitic comments were appalling by any standard. They have been rightly condemned by the international community, including the UN Secretary-General. Australian Government officials in Tehran and Canberra have also repeatedly made our abhorrence clear.

We were appalled by the latest anti-Semitic views expressed by the Iranian President in his 23 September address to the UN General Assembly. Again, we condemn these remarks unreservedly.

The Iranian President's statements are unacceptable and do nothing to reassure the international community that Iran will act as a responsible international citizen.

This is all the more troubling given Iran's nuclear program.

The Government has given exhaustive consideration to international legal action against Iran for these statements.

Having now considered legal and other advice, the Government has decided not to pursue international legal action against Iran.

In doing so, we recognised the complexity of the issues involved and the high legal threshold required to bring forward a case.

As well, we determined to avoid pursuing a case which would give further profile to these obscene remarks.

Most importantly, the Australian Government would not want such legal action to complicate or distract from the international community's efforts to address the serious concerns about Iran's nuclear program and its failure to abide by binding United Nations Security Council resolutions.

It is clear to me that the international community's most pressing priority in relation to Iran is to address Iran's nuclear program.

My announcement today on new sanctions reflects the Australian Government's determination to support and reinforce the international community's efforts to hold Iran to account.