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Top banker: Iran likely to get some money frozen by US

Central Bank Governor Abdolnassr Hemmati says some of Iran’s assets frozen in foreign accounts are likely to be freed up, IRNA news agency reports.

Under the US pressure, billions of dollars of Iran’s oil money and other funds are held up in several countries at a time when they are urgently needed to fight the novel coronavirus which has killed some 2,000 Iranians so far.

“With the efforts of the Foreign Ministry and the Central Bank, some of the country’s frozen assets are likely to be released,” Hemmati told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran Wednesday.

“According to the information we have, these resources will probably be released,” he added.

Iran is unable to buy medicine and medical equipment due to US economic sanctions which the Trump administration has obstinately been tightening despite international calls to suspend them.

International pressure and US intransigence 

The UN rights chief called Tuesday for any sanctions imposed on countries like Iran to be “urgently re-evaluated”, saying they are heightening the health risks for millions of people and weakening the global effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.  

Hemmati said Iran imported $15 billion worth of medicine and other staples last year, adding the trend continues and the country is seriously pursuing supply of essential commodities.

“We hope to be able to use the freed-up resources to supply essential goods, medicines, medical equipment, and the urgent needs of the people,” the governor said.

“We have told Central Bank experts to ensure that the resources which will gradually be released are used for the welbeing of the people,” he added.

Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Abdolnassr Hemmati speaks to reporters in this undated photo.

Iran’s assets held in foreign banks have been subject to a witch hunt by the Americans who have used Washington’s animosity toward the Islamic Republic to easily win lawsuits against the country in US courts.

On wrong side of international justice 

Iran has denounced US seizures of its frozen assets in the United States as “highway robbery” and hauled the United States before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague.

Last February, the ICJ ruled that Iran could proceed with a legal action to recover billions of dollars in frozen assets that the United States said must be paid to purported American survivors and relatives of victims of attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic without evidence.

In January, a US court’s ruling to seize Iranian assets worth about $1.7 billion outside the United States was thrown out for the time being.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had ruled that the families of US troops killed in 1983 bombing of the US Marine Corp barracks in Lebanon get access to Iranian funds in Luxembourg.

But the US Supreme Court rejected the ruling and sent the case back to the lower court so that it could issue a new decision based on a law signed by President Donald Trump which allows families to access Iranian assets.

In 2016, the US Supreme Court allowed the families to claim “compensation” from Iran’s assets, but the Central Bank of Iran contented that the funds were held in Luxembourg and thus could not be seized.

Last March, a Luxembourg court refused to reinforce a US ruling that would have helped families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks claim Iranian assets held by a clearing house in the tiny European country.

The court ruled that there were no grounds in international law to uphold in Luxembourg a 2012 US court decision to strip Iran of sovereign immunity.

With Iran currently fighting the coronavirus, the United States has offered to help the country but shown no desire to ease its sanctions imposed on Tehran in breach of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal which Trump abandoned in May 2018.

Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, have long called for the lifting of the sanctions, while dismissing Washington’s humanitarian offer as dishonest.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Sunday described the US “the most evil enemy of the Iranian nation”, saying the offer by the United States to help Iran fight the coronavirus outbreak is strange.

“Americans have said several times that ‘we are ready to help with treatment and medicine; just ask us and we will help’. This is one of the weirdest things which they tell us to ask them,” the Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamenei: US 'most evil' enemy of Iran, its virus aid offer strange

Ayatollah Khamenei: US ‘most evil’ enemy of Iran, its virus aid offer strange Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has described the US “the most evil enemy of the Iranian nation”, saying the offer by the United States to help Iran fight the coronavirus outbreak is strange.

‘Virus motivating more aggressive US policy’

According to S&P Global Platts, rather than compelling the Trump administration to relax its oil sanctions regime, the global coronavirus pandemic and oil price crash may be motivating an even more aggressive US oil sanctions policy, particularly in stopping petroleum flows out of Venezuela and Iran.

Paul Sheldon, chief geopolitical advisor at S&P Global Platts Analytics, pointed to the State Department’s announcement last week of new sanctions on companies out of South Africa, Hong Kong and China for petrochemicals trade with Iran.

“US Treasury and State Department officials plan to continue to aggressively enforce sanctions on petroleum flows out of Iran, both as a way to keep some supply off the market amid low prices and to appease Saudi officials, as the US lobbies the OPEC kingdom for action to stabilize the global market,” Platts wrote.

David Goldwyn, president of Goldwyn Global Strategies, said a harder line against Venezuela and Iran could have consequences.

“Imposing additional sanctions are unnecessary and would risk attributing direct blame to the administration for aggravating an already deteriorating humanitarian situation,” he said.

Bachelet insisted on Tuesday that “humanitarian exemptions to sanctions measures should be given broad and practical effect, with prompt, flexible authorization for essential medical equipment and supplies”.

Her comments came as the number of cases of COVID-19 approached 400,000 worldwide, including nearly 17,000 deaths.

Bachelet pointed in particular to the case of Iran which announced 143 new deaths from the novel coronavirus Wednesday, raising the official death toll to 2,077.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said his colleagues had registered 2,206 new cases of COVID-19 infection in the past 24 hours, bringing total infections to 27,017.

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