AFP: A US official said on Thursday that the oil-rich Gulf Arab states are scrutinising Iran’s financial dealings to avoid serving as a conduit for its nuclear activities and alleged terrorism funding. DUBAI (AFP) A US official said on Thursday that the oil-rich Gulf Arab states are scrutinising Iran’s financial dealings to avoid serving as a conduit for its nuclear activities and alleged terrorism funding.
Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told reporters in the United Arab Emirates that he had held talks with both governments and the private sector in three Gulf states on ensuring that Tehran does not use their banking systems for “illicit” purposes.
“What I’ve done is discuss and share information about the kind of conduct we’ve seen” by Iran to circumvent UN and US sanctions, said Levey, who visited Qatar and Bahrain earlier this week.
“From everything that I’ve heard here and elsewhere, that kind of due diligence and that kind of scrutiny … is exactly what people are starting to engage in more and more,” he said.
But “I’m not seeking commitments from anyone that I’ve met with”, Levey said when asked if he had received commitments of specific actions to clamp down on Iranian financial activities.
Levey charged that Iran was “using its financial institutions … for proliferation and terrorist financing purposes”.
Tehran was looking to the UAE, its top trading partner, and elsewhere to replace “a dramatic cutoff of business” with its financial institutions by banks in Europe and other parts of the world.
Washington has blacklisted Iran’s three main banks — Melli, Mellat and Saderat — for allegedly handling financial services for nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and/or acting as a conduit for “terrorist financing”.
A fourth Iranian bank, state-owned Sepah, is under UN sanctions stipulating a voluntary freeze by member states of its overseas assets, part of two sets of UN sanctions largely targeting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile drives.
Washington and its Western allies are trying to expand UN sanctions against Iran in a bid to pressure Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment programme. Tehran denies Western allegations it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Thousands of Iranian firms do business in the UAE, a close ally of Washington, despite US efforts to choke Tehran’s economy. But industry sources told AFP earlier this month that US banking sanctions were beginning to bite.
Nasser Hashempour, executive deputy president of the Dubai-based Iranian Business Council, said the banks Melli and Saderat were still operating in the UAE and other Gulf Arab states.
But their operations are being hampered by the refusal of foreign banks to accept letters of credit they issue or to otherwise deal with them, he said.