Iraq to speed up releasing Iranian funds: Banker

The Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) chairman Salem Chalabi says his bank will expedite efforts meant to release funds belonging to Iran and blocked in the bank because of US sanctions on Tehran.

Chalabi said on Saturday during a meeting with Central Bank of Iran governor Abdolnasser Hemmati in Tehran that the TBI will try to diversify channels through which Iran can access its blocked funds in the TBI.

Chalabi has travelled to Tehran with a high-ranking delegation led by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.

The TBI maintains billions of dollars of funds that the Iraqi government has deposited in an account in the bank to pay for purchases of natural gas from neighboring Iran.

The funds are believed to be just over a half of funds Iraq owes to its neighbor for energy imports in recent years while the government in Baghdad is expected to use the same TBI account to reimburse its overdue debts to the Iranian Oil Ministry.

Hemmati and Chalabi discussed various options for the transfer of Iranian funds during their Saturday meeting in the CBI headquarters, said a report on the bank’s website, adding that Hemmati had urged the immediate release of the funds in the TBI in line with recent agreements between the governments of Iran and Iraq.

Hemmati and other Iranian government officials travelled to Baghdad last year to press for the release of the funds.

Iran has intensified efforts to get the release of tens of billions in funds that have been blocked in banks in other countries since a previous US government withdrew from an international deal on Iran’s nuclear program and imposed sanctions on Tehran.

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