Iran may misuse UAE banks for illicit activities: US

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{image-US Flag_29022008.jpg}Dubai, Feb 29: A top US official has voiced concern that Iran may abuse the UAE banking system to circumvent US sanctions and carry out its illicit business activities of funding nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

Stuart Levey, US undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in Dubai that UAE's banking system might be ''vulnerable to misuse'' by Iran. ''That means taking a very close look at the Iranian banks operating here,'' he said, referring to Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, the Gulf News reported. Washington has blacklisted a number of Iranian companies and banks, including Bank Mellat and Bank Sepah, and barred US companies from dealing with Iran. Mr Levey is touring Iran's neighbours, such as the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar, to garner support for a US campaign to weaken Tehran financially.

Asked why the UAE should follow unilateral US sanctions against Tehran, he said, ''We have pointed out the conduct that threatens the integrity of the international financial system. We ask you (the UAE) to take a close look at it.'' Iran and the UAE have historical cultural and economic relations. There are 250 weekly flights between Iranian and UAE cities and the value of trade between them is more than 12 billion dollars. According to a recent report by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, the value of Dubai's non-oil exports to Iran was 35.9 billion dirhams, making it the number-one export destination for the emirate.

Mr Levey said Iran engaged in a ''deceptive conduct'' to procure items to build a nuclear missile programme, adding it has used its banks for the purpose. He claimed that Iran did not disclose the true purpose of those imports, and its financial institutions had sought to have their names omitted from the records of transactions in the international banking system.


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