Switzerland rejects criticism of gas deal with Iran


Switzerland’s foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has rejected criticism of a multibillion-dollar gas deal with Iran, saying that her country did not need permission from the United States to advance its strategic interests.

The brusque remarks by Calmy-Rey, who has ruffled feathers in Washington and Jerusalem with her outspoken positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, threatened to escalate tensions over a 25-year natural gas contract between Swiss energy trading company EGL and the state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company.

“Switzerland is an independent country that has its own strategic interests to defend,” Calmy-Rey told reporters after returning from a visit in Tehran.

The US government was quick to vent its displeasure over the development. “We have conveyed to the Swiss that major new oil and gas deals with Iran send precisely the wrong message at a time when Iran continues to defy UN Security Council resolutions,” the US Embassy in Bern said in a statement, according to AFP.

Calmy-Rey claimed the bilateral deal did not violate UN sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program and served only to secure energy supplies for Switzerland. She called the deal an example for successful cooperation between Swiss business and diplomacy. The foreign minister added her visit had allowed her to maintain a difficult dialogue on human rights with Tehran.

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