Israeli ambassador says Germans may close Iranian EIH bank

Hamburg-based bank allegedly finances nukes and missile programs; "Teheran has developed a version of the Russian S-300 missile."

yoram ben-zeev_311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yoram ben-zeev_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
BERLIN – Israel has asked “the German government on all levels to close” the Hamburg-based Iranian EIH bank, Ambassador to Germany Yoram Ben-Ze’ev said in response to a Jerusalem Post query on Wednesday.
Speaking during a conference call, Ben-Ze’ev said that “there are some legal issues which need to be resolved, which would allow the bank to be closed shortly.”
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“Germany would like to screen some legal issues,” said Ben-Ze’ev, adding that he is “deeply disturbed about the growth of trade between Germany and Iran.”
Germany is Iran’s No. 1 European trade partner, and many mid-level German businesses use the EIH (Europaeisch-Iranische Handelsbank) to conduct transactions with Iran.
The bank has been a source of friction between the United States and Germany, as well as between Israel and the Merkel administration. US President Barack Obama urged Chancellor Angela Merkel during the summer to pull the plug on EIH’s operation.
Merkel reportedly rejected his appeal.
The US Treasury Department has banned the bank from operating in the US because, it says, it finances companies that help Iran build weapons of mass destruction.
NGOs in Germany and the US have slammed Merkel’s administration for refusing to shut down a leading finance center for nuclear proliferation and Teheran’s missile program.
“EIH has acted as a key financial lifeline for Iran. As one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the European financial system, EIH has facilitated a tremendous volume of transactions for Iranian banks previously designated for proliferation,” Stuart Levey, US undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a Treasury Department statement.
In another development regarding Iran, nuclear experts in Teheran have developed a version of the Russian S- 300 missile and they plan to test it in the near future, the official news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
“The Iranian [version] of the S-300 system is undergoing field modification and will be test-fired soon as other long range systems are being designed and produced,” IRNA quoted Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Hassan Mansourian, a commander in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
Iran’s nuclear push came under fire in a different light earlier on Wednesday, as two firms from Belgium, who allegedly exported to Iran nuclear material that can be used to make weapons, are currently being investigated, Belgium’s Energy Ministry reported, according to an AFP report.
The companies sold materials that can be used for military or civilian means, including depleted uranium and zirconium powder, to Teheran, ministry spokeswoman Marie- Isabelle Gomez told AFP.
The energy ministry filed a complaint in 2008 against the two companies, which officials refused to identify, Gomez said, according to the report.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed Iran’s nuclear activity within a global context on Wednesday, saying that Iran is not prepared to discuss the “nuclear issue” with world powers, during a speech in the central Iranian city of Qazvin.
According to a Press TV report, Ahmadinejad told gathered supporters: “Iran is ready to hold talks on equal conditions to help settle ongoing problems, ease international concerns and establish peace and security in the world.”
He reportedly continued: “We have repeatedly said that our [nuclear] rights are not negotiable... We only hold talks to resolve international problems... to help the establishment of peace.”
On Tuesday, Iran responded to reports that it had agreed to meet with the “5+1” group later this month by saying that it absolutely would not be discussing a nuclear fuel swap.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.