Reuters: U.S. sanctions against Iranian banks do not contravene foreign-exchange rules, an International Monetary Fund spokesman said on Monday, after Tehran asked the IMF to determine whether the actions were legal. By Lesley Wroughton
WASHINGTON, March 12 (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions against Iranian banks do not contravene foreign-exchange rules, an International Monetary Fund spokesman said on Monday, after Tehran asked the IMF to determine whether the actions were legal.
“We have reviewed the Iranian authorities’ request,” IMF spokesman William Murray told Reuters.
“We advised the authorities that the new U.S. measures do not give rise to an exchange restriction,” he added.
The comments by the Washington-based IMF follow a request in November by Iran to explore whether the Sept. 8 embargo against Saderat, a large trade financier that the U.S. accuses of financing terrorism, violated IMF rules on foreign-exchange restrictions.
An IMF source said the matter was also raised last month by the chairs for India and Egypt during a meeting of the IMF’s board of member countries to discuss Iran’s economy.
The countries questioned whether the U.S. should have informed the IMF under an executive board decision, known as No:144-(52/51) of Aug. 14, 1952, about the sanctions and if it had breached the rules.
Iran first raised the issue with the IMF during the November 2006 economic consultations that included talks on the impact of the U.S. embargo, according to documents published last week detailing the discussions.
During the talks, Iran expressed concern that since the United States cut off Saderat, the bank has been unable to issue letters of credit in dollars, which was affecting deposits.
Iran also said several Saderat correspondent banks in Europe and Asia that have ties to the United States had cut off Saderat from operating in other currencies.
Washington has since intensified its campaign to isolate Tehran for its nuclear program by extending sanctions to Iran’s oldest bank — state-owned Bank Sepah — which the United States accuses of transferring Iranian missile payments to North Korea.
Iran has dismissed the U.S. embargo against its banks as “harassment.”
But the United States Treasury has urged banks and other financial institutions worldwide not to do business with Iran and warned them of the risks of being associated with Tehran.
Fearing U.S. penalties, many international banks have heeded the call. In May last year, four major European banks, including UBS and Credit Suisse of Switzerland, Dutch group ABN AMRO, and London-based HSBC said they would restrict business with Iranian individuals or businesses.