Iran: EU may boycott top bank, says report
The move follows delayed approval from Italy, which reportedly removed its objection to the move at a meeting of the EU’s political and security committee in Brussels on Friday.
The newspaper quoted unnamed Italian government sources saying this was an early indication that Italy’s conservative prime minister-elect, Silvio Berlusconi, would adopt a different policy towards Iran.
Italy is Iran’s largest European trading partner and the Bank Melli is the country’s largest bank. It is also one of the major vehicles through which business between Iran and the EU is channelled.
The Jerusalem Post quoted an anonymous US government source saying the EU’s move to blacklist Bank Melli would be a significant blow to Iran.
The paper also quoted unnamed Israeli government sources who said the move was “very important”.
The United Nations adopted its latest round of sanctions against Iran in relation to its controversial uranium enrichment programme under Security Council resolution 1803.
This called for all states to “exercise vigilance over the activities of financial institutions in their territories with all banks domiciled in Iran, in particular with Bank Melli and Bank Saderat .”
Bank Saderat is Iran’s export bank, which the US Treasury claims is used to transfer funds to militant Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, Islamist Palestinian Hamas and other groups the US authorities consider terrorist organisations.
The US took unilateral sanctions against Iran last October, and Tehran has been having increasing difficulty in doing business with Europe.
Iran has been looking to Asian countries such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia to provide it with equipment and technology, but Iran’s energy industry desperately needs western technology.
The political and security committee is a group of ambassadors from EU states that prepares resolutions for approval from EU ministers.
According to the Post, the blacklisting of Bank Melli is expected to be approved by EU ministers, possibly when they meet for their monthly meeting on Friday.
No decision has yet been made on a “common position” over UN Security Council Resolution 1803, however, the Jerusalem Post said.
Italy remains among those countries opposed to a British and French resolution to intensify sanctions against all banks headquartered in Iran.