US senators urge Germany to stop EIH from supporting Iran

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Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 4 (PTI) Nine influential US Senators haveurged Germany to stop Hamburg-based bank Europ�isch-IranischeHandelsbank from routing funds that could be used to supportIran''s nuclear programme, warning that all entities doing sowill be debarred from the US financial system.

EIH was sanctioned by the United States in September,2010, for its facilitation of Iran''s proliferation activities.

Incidentally, the letter from the nine Senators waswritten to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle onFebruary 1, before India''s Finance Ministry announced itsdecision to pay Iran for Iranian crude oil through EIH ineuros.

"Payments in euros will be made through Hamburg-basedEurop�isch-Iranische Handelsbank AG (EIH Bank)," a seniorFinance Ministry official said on Thursday after a high-levelmeeting on the issue, which was attended by National SecurityAdvisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Department of Economic AffairsSecretary R Gopalan, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and OilSecretary S Sundareshan, among others.

In their letter dated February 1, which was released tothe press on February 2, the US senators expressed theirconcern to the German Foreign Minister that EIH continues toconduct transactions on behalf of entities under US and EUsanctions.

"EIH is one of Iran''s few remaining access points to theEuropean financial system," said the letter signed by SenatorsFrank R Lautenberg, Mike Johanns, Barbara Boxer, Bob Casey,Scott Brown, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mark Kirk, JonKyl, Joe Lieberman and Jerry Moran.

"The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is undeniable and wemust make sanctions as strong as possible to deny Iran theeconomic means to develop those weapons. Europ�isch-IranischeHandelsbank must halt these practices or be closedimmediately," they said.

Expressing their grave concern with the continuedfinancial support of Iran''s nuclear proliferation activity byEurop�isch-Iranische Handelsbank (EIH) in Hamburg, thesenators urged the German government to take immediate actionto end these practices.

"In September, the United States sanctioned EIH, citingits role as a key financial lifeline for Iran and itsfacilitation of Iran''s proliferation activities. EIH is one ofIran''s few remaining access points to the European financialsystem," the letter said.

"The bank has and continues to conduct transactions onbehalf of entities under US and EU sanctions, including BankMellat, a designated supporter of the Atomic EnergyOrganisation of Iran (AEOI). The AEOI reports directly to theIranian president and is the main Iranian organisation forresearch and development of nuclear technology," it said. MOREPTI LKJ ARV

"We know Germany shares international concerns about the Iranian regime, including its nuclear programme, support forterrorism and human rights abuses.

"The sanctions passed by the EU this summer sent a strongmessage to Iran that we will not allow its illicit behaviorand violations of Security Council resolutions to gounanswered.

"Yet, the continued operation of EIH allows the Iranianregime to skirt the sanctions and undercut theireffectiveness," the senators wrote.

The senators said under US law, any financial institutionthat continues to conduct business with EIH may itself bebarred from accessing the US financial system.

"Companies that continue to conduct trade with Iran viaEIH also face potential sanctions in the US, includingrestrictions on exports to the US and access to US capitalmarkets," they said.

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