Reuters: Three Iranian cargo ships seized in Singapore several months ago due to a financial dispute linked to sanctions on the Islamic Republic have been released, news agencies in Iran reported on Wednesday.
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Three Iranian cargo ships seized in Singapore several months ago due to a financial dispute linked to sanctions on the Islamic Republic have been released, news agencies in Iran reported on Wednesday.
“After solving the problems created by Westerners, the Iranian ships which were seized in Singapore were freed a few minutes ago,” Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari told the country’s semi-official Fars news agency.
Iran has been hit by international sanctions over its nuclear program which the West fears could be used to produce atomic bombs. Iran denies this and says it needs nuclear energy to meet its booming demand.
The website of state run Press TV reported that the dispute started when France’s Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank called in a loan early due to sanctions which have hit Iran’s ability to access financial services in many foreign countries.
A spokeswoman for the French bank declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
The chairman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), Mohammad Hossein Dajmar, told Press TV: “They claim that since these ships did not have creditable insurance, the status of the loan was changed to an overdue debt.”
“This is while they (the West) banned British insurance (companies) from insuring Iranian ships,” Dajmar said.
Dajmar said the outstanding $200 million had been repaid.
He added that two other Iranian vessels, seized in Hong Kong and Malta for similar reasons, were still being held, pending negotiations. Dajmar said earlier this week that those ships were being held by an unnamed German bank.
The United States imposed new sanctions on Iran last month seeking to choke off finances for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and IRISL in a bid to increase pressure on Tehran.
Stuart Levey, U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in December that a few months previously, Credit Agricole had seized three IRISL ships in Singapore because Iran could not purchase insurance for them, violating terms of a $235 million loan agreement.
Iranian authorities usually play down the impact of the sanctions on the economy and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described them as no more effective than a “used handkerchief.”
However, the president has urged the West to scrap the sanctions if it wants a fruitful outcome from talks between Iran and the six major powers which resumed in Geneva in December after more than a year.
(Writing by Ramin Mostafavi, additional reporting by Jonathan Saul in London; Editing by Anthony Barker)