Iran Nuclear NewsU.S., UK, France urge more vigilance on Iran banks

U.S., UK, France urge more vigilance on Iran banks

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ImageReuters: Iran's central bank and other Iranian financial institutions are trying to skirt U.N. sanctions by covering their tracks and must be watched closely, Britain, the United States and France told key U.N. powers.

By Louis Charbonneau

ImageUNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Iran's central bank and other Iranian financial institutions are trying to skirt U.N. sanctions by covering their tracks and must be watched closely, Britain, the United States and France told key U.N. powers.

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council circulated to reporters on Monday, the three Western allies warned of "Iran's continued attempts to conduct prohibited proliferation-related activity and terrorist financing."

The 15-nation Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt sensitive nuclear enrichment activities, which Western states fear could be used to make atomic weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is intended solely for the peaceful generation of electricity and has refused to suspend work at its uranium enrichment facilities.

Among the Iranian companies that have been placed on the U.N. sanctions lists is Bank Sepah for allegedly financing Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

The third sanctions resolution, passed in March, named Bank Melli, Iran's largest, and Bank Saderat as dubious institutions that countries need to be vigilant about. The United States has banned transactions with Bank Melli and Bank Saderat and the European Union has blacklisted Bank Melli.

Two Western council diplomats said financial intelligence authorities in Europe and the United States had uncovered numerous attempts by Iranian banks to covertly conduct transactions in recent months, adding that a number of those transactions had initially gone unnoticed.

The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have offered Iran economic and political incentives to freeze enrichment. Tehran has indicated it will not accept the offer, prompting Washington to call for a fourth round of sanctions if Iran does not respond positively by Tuesday.

"The Central Bank of Iran and Iranian commercial banks have requested that their names be removed from global transactions in order to make it more difficult for intermediary financial institutions to determine the true parties in the transaction," the letter said.

The three powers said Iran's central bank appeared to be playing a key role in attempts to bypass sanctions.

"It is particularly concerning that the Central Bank of Iran may be facilitating transactions for sanctioned Iranian banks," the letter said.

They listed the names of nearly 60 Iranian banks and bank subsidiaries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia that world financial institutions need to be on the lookout for.

A London-based unit of Bank Melli said last month it would challenge the legality of European Union sanctions against it in British and EU courts.

(Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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