Reuters: Iran is withdrawing assets from European banks in the face of tightening international sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program, an Iranian daily said on Tuesday.
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran is withdrawing assets from European banks in the face of tightening international sanctions against the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program, an Iranian daily said on Tuesday.
The report appeared in the Etemad-e Melli newspaper on the day the European Union and the United States are expected to warn Iran they are ready to go beyond agreed U.N. sanctions if it shuns demands to suspend sensitive nuclear work.
"The … government is withdrawing Iran's assets from Europe," the reformist daily said in a front-page headline.
It said Mohsen Talaie, deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs, was the first Iranian official to confirm the withdrawal of Iranian assets from banks in Europe but it did not name them or give any figures.
Talaie was quoted as saying Iran, which has come under three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its refusal to suspend work the West fears is aimed at making bombs, was converting some of its foreign exchange assets into gold and equities.
Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude producer, is making windfall gains from record global oil prices and said in April its foreign exchange reserves stood at more than $80 billion.
Talaie said Iran was determined to transfer foreign assets and change their composition to try to neutralize the impact of international sanctions, Etemad-e Melli reported.
"Upon the decision of the government's task force a segment of Iran's foreign exchange assets will be converted into real assets such as gold and stocks," Talaie said.
Iran's foreign reserve figure has been climbing steadily. Some analysts say that, alongside rising oil revenues, Iran has been helped by its decision to shift away from the U.S. dollar into other currencies as the dollar has weakened.
Iran has made the shift as Washington has tried to isolate the Islamic Republic, including imposing sanctions on Iranian banks. That has pushed many Western banks to scrap dollar dealings with Iran or even end business completely.
Talaie said Iran was increasingly dealing with smaller banks: "From now on Iran's cooperation with small banks in the world will increase," he was quoted as saying.
Western countries suspect Iran is seeking the ability to make nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its secretive program is purely aimed at generating energy.
A draft summit communique obtained by Reuters ahead of an EU-U.S. summit in Slovenia on Tuesday raised the possibility of a crackdown on Iranian banks, the area where Washington has urged the EU's 27 states to apply more pressure on Iran.
EU diplomats have said the bloc is preparing an asset and funds freeze on Iran's biggest bank, state-owned Bank Melli, but that it first wants to see how Tehran responds to a new offer of incentives by major powers for it to suspend uranium enrichment.
(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari and Parisa Hafezi; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Gerrard Raven)