The European Union warned the United States Tuesday, July 31, it could become the target of WTO action after the US Congress extended a law punishing firms that do business in the oil and gas industries in Iran and Libya.
EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten said that any action taken against European businesses under the so-called Helms-Burton law would trigger a complaint to the World Trade Organization.
"In April 1997 the European Council decided that the EU would request the re-establishment of a WTO panel against the US should any action be taken against EU companies or individuals under the Helms-Burton Act or ILSA," he said. "That decision still stands."
Patten was responding to the US Congressional decision on July 27 to extend the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) for another five years. Patten reminded Washington that at the joint EU-US Gothenborg summit in June, the European Union and the United States affirmed their commitment to pursue shared aims.
"In particular, they agreed to work together to promote international security, peace and stability, and to pursue the fight against international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
"The EU is concerned that this important joint effort could be damaged by continuing US attempts to promote the goal through unilateral extraterritorial laws."
The current sanctions regime, which expires in August, allows the US government to penalize foreign businesses with more than $20 million invested annually in either Iran's or Libya's energy sector. The level had been fixed at $40 million for Tripoli.
The Bush administration — most notably Secretary of State Colin Powell — urged the sanctions be extended only for a two-year period, but they were unsuccessful as lawmakers thought it would send the wrong message to Tehran and Tripoli. ― (AFP, Brussels)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )