Britain's foreign secretary says the European Union should maintain pressure on current Iran sanctions against the county's nuclear programme but not consider implementing new ones.
Speaking with reporters ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, William Hague says "we must maintain (current) sanctions pressure, not proposing new ones," he told reporters ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg."
The statement comes at the time that The Guardian broadened out an original Reuters investigation, revealed that Glencore, one of the UK's largest companies, made nearly half a billion pounds in selling goods to Iran last year, including to a state-owned firm that supplies the regime's nuclear programme.
According to the media reports, the commodity trading behemoth traded £430m (€502.6m / $659m) in goods, including aluminium oxide to Iranian Aluminium Company (Iralco), to Iran in 2012.
The US and Europe installed number of sanctions over the years, and extended existing frameworks, which prohibit companies and financial institutions from dealing or selling goods to Iranian individuals or Iran-based firms.
The criticism comes as aluminium oxide is an important material in gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
"Alumina is a generic raw material like sand. It needs to be further processed before it is used for anything. The alumina we supplied is not a dual use/nuclear related product. The aluminium metal which we received is also not a dual use / nuclear related good," says a Glencore in a statement to IBTimes UK.
The International Atomic Energy Agency named Iralco as supplying aluminium to Iran Centrifuge Technology Company (Tesa), which is part of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI).
However, Glencore tells IBTimes UK that "[the company] complies with applicable laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions. We closely monitor all new legal developments to ensure that we continue to be in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions."
It adds that while Glencore "monitors the applicable laws and regulations including sanctions, but is reliant on the relevant regulatory bodies/governments to advise us on developments in who we can/can't do business with," they also "continuously monitor all contracts which are or could be affected by sanctions."
In the statement to IBTimes UK, Glencore also reiterated that as soon as Iralco was sanctioned by the EU "we ceased transactions with them."
The group confirmed that the last trade with Iralco was in October 2012, two months before the EU levied sanctions and that prior to EU sanctions in December 2012, "we were not aware of a link/contract between Iralco and Tesa."