U.S. Hits Key Iranian Bank with Sanctions
By Andrzej Zwaniecki
Washington - The United States has imposed sanctions on a key Iranian bank for its involvement in Iran's sensitive nuclear program, the U.S. Treasury Department announced January 23.
Bank Tejarat, Iran's third-largest bank, was designated by the department for providing services to Iranian financial institutions and companies that already are subject to international sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program. Under the designation, all financial institutions must stop their financial dealings with the bank and its Belarus-based affiliate or face the loss of access to the U.S. financial system.
The United States and a growing number of its allies and partners have been tightening the sanctions on Iran to pressure it to comply with the international nonproliferation rules and abandon efforts that the international community believes are aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran's economy and currency have suffered as a result of the sanctions, which have significantly limited the country's access to major international financial institutions and businesses, according to U.S. and international experts and officials.
"Today's action against Bank Tejarat strikes at one of Iran's few remaining access points to the international financial system," said Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen in a January 23 statement. He said the sanctions "will deepen Iran's financial isolation, make its access to hard currency even more tenuous, and further impair Iran's ability to finance its illicit nuclear program."
The Treasury statement said Bank Tejarat has "directly facilitated Iran's illicit nuclear efforts" and repeatedly assisted U.S.-designated banks in circumventing international sanctions. So far, the United States has designated 23 Iranian or Iran-linked financial institutions.
The United States acted hours after the European Union imposed a new embargo on Iranian oil and petroleum products and adopted restrictions on Iran's central bank as well as on trade in certain materials.
President Obama applauded the EU's move in a statement and vowed to "continue to impose new sanctions to increase the pressure on Iran" until it fulfills its international obligations.
In a joint statement, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the expanded international sanctions will "sharpen the choice for Iran's leaders and increase their cost of defiance of basic international obligations" regarding the country's nuclear program.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)