BRUSSELS - The United States is concerned Iranian appeals to
European courts could loosen sanctions against Tehran, said a State Department
official on Monday who urged the EU to urgently find a way to allow judges to
examine secret intelligence evidence.
Europe's General Court told EU
governments in January to lift asset freezes against Bank Mellat and Bank
Saderat, two of more than a dozen Iranian banks which the European Union says
are helping finance Tehran's nuclear program.
Both the European Union
and the United States view sanctions against the Iranian banking sector as a
crucial component of economic pressure designed to force Tehran to scale back
the nuclear work, which they suspect has covert military goals.
Iran denies it seeks a nuclear weapons capability and says its work is for
medical research and generating electricity.
The court argued the EU has
failed to provide sufficient evidence the banks are involved in financing the
nuclear program, potentially eroding Europe's sanctions efforts.
are well aware of this problem," a US State Department official told Reuters
during a trip to Brussels. "We are looking at it with some concern." At the
centre of the disagreement between EU governments and the court is classified
information which the capitals say should not be provided to judges because that
could compromise intelligence sources.
The US official said
policymakers from Washington had discussed the issue with European governments
and institutions, and urged them to explore regulatory solutions that would
allow, for example, for judges to review information in a secure way.
hope that the European Union is looking at its regulation to see if there are
any changes it can make to make these (sanctions) regulations more robust when
challenged in court," he said.
"The most difficult question is whether
the European Union can find a way to have courts handle classified information
in a way that gives member states ... confidence it will be held in secret." "We
will do our part as best as we can and we think the European Union needs to
focus on this with some urgency," the official said.More Iranian appeals pending
EU governments are likely to decide to appeal the rulings regarding Bank
Mellat and Bank Saderat later this week.
Bank Mellat was formed through
the merger of 10 banks in 1980 and boasts 1,800 branches in Iran as well as
branches in Turkey, South Korea, London and Dubai. It has also appealed to the
British Supreme Court to overturn a ban on its operations.
More than 30
cases are still pending at the General Court, including ones filed by the
Central Bank of Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Those
sanctions severely affected Iran's ability to export oil and carry out
international financial transactions.
US senators have also urged
European Union leaders to do more to stop the Iranian government from using the
European Central Bank, saying the bank's payment system may inadvertently be
aiding Tehran in financing its nuclear program.
But EU diplomats say any
major work on Iranian sanctions can only be considered after the next round of
negotiations between Tehran and six powers. The six - the United States, Russia,
China, France, Britain and Germany - are due to meet Iran in the Kazakh city of
Almaty on April 5 and 6.
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