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Iran banks rebuff US charges

Are Iranian banks based in London an unwitting victim of political tensions in the Gulf, as US authorities try to limit their access to international finance?

Ahmad Azizi, Melli Bank

"Our operations are mainly in Europe, so we have been experiencing a certain level of difficulty. However, there has been no great material impact on our business yet" Ahmad Azizi, Melli Bank

America’s allegations

Accusations of funding terrorism and missile development have been denied and the British Bankers’ Association fears Iranian banks in London are becoming victims of US foreign policy as other banks curtail services. Lawrence White reports.

THE INTRICATE BATTLE of words, wits and wills between the US Treasury and Iranian banks has stepped up a gear. The UK subsidiaries of the Iranian banks whose business is being disrupted by pressure from the US Treasury have begun to defend themselves, just as the UN Security Council announced official sanctions that specifically accuse one of the four state banks in question, Bank Sepah, of financing Tehran’s missile programme.

Initially, Melli Bank, Bank Saderat, Bank Sepah International and Persia International Bank made no direct response to the US authorities’ suggestion to the international financial community that they suspend business dealings with Iranian institutions. They instead preferred to approach the British Bankers’ Association, of which they are members, to voice their concerns.