imposing any ban. Pressure is mounting on Iran over its nuclear programme and the United States has stepped up its push to isolate Tehran economically. On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed into law far-reaching sanctions that aim to squeeze the Islamic Republic's fuel imports and deepen its international isolation. "Since last week, our planes have been refused fuel at airports in Britain, Germany and UAE because of the sanctions imposed by America," Mehdi Aliyari, Secretary of the Iranian Airlines Union, told Iran's ISNA news agency. The claim could not be independently confirmed and was met by scepticism. None of the three countries has announced any such ban, although officials could not rule out private firms refusing to fuel Iranian planes because of US measures. A British government spokesman said it was unaware of any Iranian planes being denied fuel in Britain. The German transport ministry said there was no ban on refuelling Iranian aircraft, and an airport in the United Arab Emirates said it was honouring contracts to fill Iranian aircraft normally. Gala Riani at IHS Global Insight said any measure targeting the provision of fuel to Iranian flights would seem a "very strict reading" of the new US sanctions law. She said it would not necessarily be the kind of measures the legislation, which is more directed at trade in fuel, aimed to achieve. "I'd be cautious to jump to any conclusions," she said about the Iranian news agency report. A spokeswoman for Abu Dhabi Airports (ADAC) in the UAE capital said: "We have contracts with Iranian passenger flights and continue to allow refuelling." Fuel traders from three different international firms said they had heard of no ban on jet fuel sales to Iranian aircraft at UAE airports. Said one trader: "You can't allow a plane to land and then not let it buy fuel." Germany's Transport Ministry said the refuelling of Iranian planes was not banned under EU or UN sanctions, nor was any such ban foreseeable. "There is no ban," a spokesman for the ministry said, adding that he could not comment on whether any individual providers were refusing to fuel Iranian aircraft. Although the British authorities were not aware of any Iranian aircraft having been denied fuel, a government source said: "It is a commercial decision for companies to take how they respond to the US legislation." UAE TIGHTENS FINANCIAL RULES The claim followed steps by the UAE this month to tighten its crucial role as a trading and financial lifeline for Iran. The UAE Central Bank asked financial institutions to freeze the accounts of 40 entities and an individual blacklisted by the UN for assisting Iran's nuclear or missile programmes. The US action and other measures planned by the European Union go well beyond a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran approved on June 9. Over the past weeks a number of countries and firms have cut back on their imports of Iranian crude oil. More companies have also stopped providing Iran with refined petroleum which Tehran needs to import to meet domestic demand. Iran is the world's fifth-largest oil producer, but imports various oil products for lack of sufficient refining capacity. The US measures, unlike the UN sanctions, target Iranian imports of refined products. A State Department press officer in Washington was able to comment on Monday, a US holiday, on whether the new US sanctions barred firms abroad from refuelling Iranian air craft. Western powers believe Iran is trying to build bombs under cover of a civilian nuclear programme. Tehran says the programme is only for electricity generation and medical purposes. Aliyari said that so far Iran Air, the national carrier, and Mahan Airlines had run into refuelling problems. "Refusing to provide fuel to Iranian passenger planes by these countries is a violation of international conventions," he added. An Iranian lawmaker said his country would retaliate against countries denying fuel to its planes: "Iran will do the same to ships and planes of those countries that cause problems for us," ISNA quoted Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh as saying.
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