The Bosnian authorities said a company from the town of Zvornik held talks with Iranian officials about selling aluminium oxide that could have been used in Tehran’s nuclear programme, which would have breached Western sanctions.
By Danijel Kovacevic
Security Minister Fahrudin Radoncic wrote on Instagram on Monday that a Bosnian company had discussed with officials at the Iranian embassy in Sarajevo the possibility of selling aluminium oxide powder to Tehran in breach of US and EU sanctions.
According to Bosnian media, the executive directors of a company called Alumina spoke to the Iranians about arranging the purchase of aluminium oxide powder that could have been used in Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The Zurnal website reported that the export would have had to have been arranged through companies from Turkey and Pakistan so that Alumina would not be formally associated with the end customers in Iran.
Alumina is based in the eastern town of Zvornik, in the country’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity. It has denied any wrongdoing.
After the Bosnian security services received and verified the information, Radoncic travelled to Republika Srpska’s main city of Banja Luka on Friday to inform the Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency, Milorad Dodik.
“I presented Mr. Dodik with the information available to us and our international partners, and I must tell you that he, as a member of the presidency, reacted very responsibly,” Radoncic told Bosnia’s Face TV on Saturday.
“He immediately demanded that they [his staff] connect him with officials from that company and very directly and specifically forbade that company from having any business with that country [Iran],” he added.
Dodik confirmed this at a press conference on Monday.
“I was informed that there were some contacts [between Alumina and the Iranian embassy]. Knowing that America has imposed sanctions against Iran, we have no reason to risk anything, and I called the Alumina director and told him to cut off all those contacts. The job [sale of aluminium oxide to Iran] was never completed,” Dodik said.
Radoncic said that he discussed the issue with the Iranian ambassador to Sarajevo on March 9.
“I warned him that Bosnia is pursuing a security and sanctions policy against Iran in line with the foreign policy of the EU and our largest strategic partner, the US government,” he said.
“God forbid that that cooperation continued. We would have jeopardised our vital national interests because we could have been subject to sanctions,” he added.
The management of Alumina said in a press statement that “not a single kilogramme of goods produced by Alumina has been sold directly to Iran or indirectly through other countries, as the media have speculatively stated”.
However, it admitted that representatives of the company did have a meeting with representatives of the Iranian embassy.
“Truth be told, we are announcing to the public that after a series of requests from the Iranian Embassy’s economic department in Sarajevo for a meeting with Alumina, Alumina’s marketing team had a meeting with the Deputy Ambassador for the Economic Sector,” it said.
However, it said that Alumina told the Iranian officials that “Iran is under sanctions and that it is not possible to establish business cooperation with companies from that country. There is written evidence of this.”
Alumina has said it will sue those who spread the information about its alleged Iranian links, including Radoncic, although the minister did not mention the company’s name until Alumina announced the lawsuit.
“In a statement from the management of Alumina, they themselves revealed that they had organised and held a meeting with people from the ‘Economic Section of the Embassy of Iran in Sarajevo,’” Radoncic wrote on Instagram.