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Friday, January 12, 2007

German Bank Limits Iranian Business

A German bank announced yesterday that it would not conduct business for Iranian clients using dollars, one day after the United States announced it would freeze the assets of a major bank in Iran (see GSN, Jan. 9).

Commerzbank, the nation’s second largest bank, said it would continue transactions involving euros, Agence France-Presse reported.

The move indicated growing support among financial institutions for U.S. efforts to prevent Iran from purchasing technology and materials for its suspected nuclear weapons program, said State Department spokesman Tom Casey.

“Some financial institutions and other organizations are making a pretty dry-eyed assessment as to whether now is the right moment for them to be involved” with Iran, he said.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it had ordered the freezing of all U.S.-held assets of Bank Sepah, Iran’s fifth largest bank, saying the bank illicitly funded Iran’s WMD and missile programs.

“If Iran continues down this path, then there may be further measures that will be taken against them,” Casey said.

U.S. officials have undertaken a campaign to persuade international financial officers to reduce their cooperation with Iran.

“Over the past several months, we have been sharing information with our foreign counterparts and key executives in the private sector about these deceptive practices and discussing how best to safeguard the international financial system against them,” said Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey.

The message implied that the United States could reduce the access of friendly foreign banks to U.S. financial institutions if they are found to have dealt with suspect Iranian clients, AFP reported (David Millikin, Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, Jan. 10.).

Bank Sepah yesterday rejected the U.S. charges that it was involved in aiding the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and threatened to take unspecified legal action.

“While denying all the lies we consider it as right that in the near future we will take up the case through legal channels,” said a bank statement. “Definitely the decision made by U.S. officials has a political background and is part of a bigger scenario” (Reuters/New York Times, Jan. 10).

Meanwhile, two international nuclear inspectors arrived in Iran yesterday for a weeklong visit to the nation’s uranium conversion and enrichment facilities, Iran’s official news agency reported (IRNA, Jan. 10).
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