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. Sanctions hitting Iran trade: chamber of commerce
TEHRAN, Sept 16 (AFP) Sep 16, 2008
International sanctions against Iran over its nuclear drive are hitting trade costs, the head of the country's chamber of commerce said in remarks published on Tuesday.

"Imposing these costs does not mean cutting Iran's trade relations with other countries... but costs of imports and exports have increased because of the obstacles created," Mohammad Nahavandian was quoted as saying in the Sarmayeh newspaper.

Tehran is under several sets of UN and EU sanctions because of its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel but can be diverted to develop the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.

"In dollar figures the average price of imported goods has increased by about 48 percent," Nahavandian said, quoting Iranian customs figures. "In purchases by euro, prices have increased by 25 percent."

His comments came after the UN atomic watchdog accused Iran on Monday of stalling a UN investigation into its nuclear programme, refusing access to documents, individuals and sites.

The International Atomic Energy Agency also said the Islamic republic was defying international demands to suspend uranium enrichment despite UN Security Council demands and the threat of further sanctions.

Nahavandian, whose country denies seeking a nuclear bomb, said the increased costs amounted to several billion dollars "with which we could create one million jobs" for Iranian youths.

"These costs do not only affect Iran's economy. It also means losing opportunities for the country's trade and economic partners... a lose-lose game," he said.

Iran's imports in its last calendar year, ending March 19, stood at 56.5 billion dollars (40 billion euros).

EU governments have pressured European financial institutions to cut business dealings with Iran as a way of pressuring the Islamic republic in the nuclear standoff.

The West also wants Asian banks to loosen their traditionally close ties with Iran, while the European Union and United States have imposed restrictions on Iran's largest banks.

Higher insurance fees and obstacles in opening letters of credit are among the cost increases faced by Iranian importers. Several parties are often involved in trading to circumvent the sanctions, also adding to costs.

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