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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Levey: Iran 'central banker of terror'

WASHINGTON (AP) - Iran, a primary source of funding for militant group Hezbollah, is a "central banker of terror," a top Treasury Department official said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Iran is like the elephant in the room if you will ... they are the central banker of terror. It is a country that has terrorism as a line-item in its budget," said Stuart Levey, the department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Levey's comments came as Iran faces a Thursday deadline imposed by the U.N Security Council to suspend a key part of its nuclear program or face political and economic sanctions.

The key part of Iran's nuclear program deals with the enrichment of uranium, a process that can produce either fuel for a reactor or materials for weapons of mass destruction.

Iran last week responded to a package of Western incentives aimed at getting it to roll back its nuclear program. Iranian officials said the Islamic country did not agree to halt enrichment - the key demand - before engaging in further talks. Other details have not been released.

Iran says its nuclear program is intended solely to generate electricity, while the United States and Europe contend it secretly aims to develop nuclear weapons.

Levey said the United States was working not only to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions but to financially clamp down its funding of Hezbollah and its role in the recent bloodshed in Lebanon.

He estimated that Iran was providing Hezbollah with more than $100 million per year in financial support, in addition to the military equipment.
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