Reuters: A U.S. Treasury Department official who has called Iran a major financial backer of terrorism will travel to Europe next week for talks on how to dry up that money flow, the department said on Tuesday. By Tim Ahmann
WASHINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) – A U.S. Treasury Department official who has called Iran a major financial backer of terrorism will travel to Europe next week for talks on how to dry up that money flow, the department said on Tuesday.
Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey will start the five-day visit in Britain on Monday and go on to France, Switzerland and Italy, Treasury spokesman Tony Fratto said.
Levey, who has taken similar trips in the past, will meet government officials and global financial institutions to discuss “ways to combat threats emanating from financial flows from Iran,” Fratto said.
Fratto declined to say whether potential U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program would be on Levey’s agenda. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns will meet senior officials from Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany on Thursday in Berlin to discuss that issue.
But Levey’s activities have been part of a broad U.S. strategy to put pressure on Iran, which the Bush administration accuses of arming and funding the militant religious political group Hizbollah in Lebanon, as well as backing terrorism more generally and pursuing a nuclear weapon.
In addition to U.N. sanctions, the United States has pursued a related track of encouraging other countries to use existing national and international authorities to restrain Iran.
Levey, a major force in that effort, told Reuters last month that tackling Iran was the “big, looming challenge” in U.S. efforts to dry up funding for terrorist activity worldwide.
Iran last week defied U.N. Security Council demands that it halt uranium enrichment activities that Washington and its allies say are aimed at making nuclear weapons.
President George W. Bush, speaking to a military group on Tuesday, reiterated his commitment to a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis but insisted: “The world’s free nations will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
Iran’s leaders “want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East,” he said.
The Security Council approved a resolution in July to move to sanctions if Tehran did not halt nuclear enrichment by an Aug. 31 deadline. Russia, China and some European states are cool on sanctions and Senior officials from major powers are meeting in Berlin on Thursday to discuss the issue.
Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, the moderate predecessor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is now on an unprecedented trip to the United States.
In an interview with CNN, Khatami distanced himself from his successor’s call for the destruction of Israel.
“I personally never said that Israel should be wiped off the map. I always said and backed fair and equal peace in the region … one of the main pillars of which would have to be fair treatment of Palestinians … and also the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” Khatami said.
(Additional reporting by Carol Giacomo)