Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Israel Defying Sanctions Against Iran

U.S. officials demanding halt to indirect Israel imports of Iranian pistachio nuts

The International Herald Tribune reports:

It's not just Iran's nuclear program that's causing problems for Israel and the U.S. — it's also Iran's pistachio nuts.

The reddish nuts are landing in Israeli shops after funneling through Turkey, violating Israeli law that bans all Iranian imports and angering American officials who are urging Israel to crack down as part of their attempt to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Keenum said in a meeting with Israeli officials in Rome on Monday that the pistachio imports must stop, a U.S. official confirmed Wednesday. Both the U.S. and Israel have been pushing for new U.N. sanctions to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program. Iran insists its ambitions are peaceful.

"This causes great anger, especially since pistachios succeed in coming in through a third country," Israeli Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon told Israeli Radio. "This has to do with the sanctions but also with the competition between American farmers and Iranian farmers, and we are trying to deal with this."

Simchon said a recent meeting with a senior U.S. agriculture official focused on using technology to detect the origin of pistachios. He said that would involve chemical testing to determine the climate and soil of where the nuts were grown.

In the mid 1990s U.S. officials pressured Israel to block the import of Iranian nuts coming through E.U. member states and winding up in Israel.

The United States has had few diplomatic and economic ties with Iran since a group of Iranian students besieged the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, holding diplomats hostage for 444 days.

Tensions since Iran started pursuing nuclear technology have only heightened, with the U.S. pushing the U.N. to enact new economic sanctions against the country until it gives up the program.

California is the second largest producer of pistachios in the world, according to the former California Pistachio Coalition. Iran is first.

"As a proud native of the golden state (California), I think Israelis should eat American pistachios, not Iranian ones," said Stewart Tuttle, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.