UK must take practical steps to pay 40-year debt to Iran

The Iranian Defense Ministry urges the United Kingdom to take “practical and expeditious” steps to settle a staggering 40-year-plus debt to Tehran over tanks that London had been supposed to deliver to the country.

In a statement, the ministry noted that British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has, himself, confessed to his country’s outstanding debt to Iran, adding that valid international rulings have also found the UK liable in the case, IRNA reported on Thursday.

International Military Services (IMS), a subsidiary of the British Ministry of Defense, signed contracts in 1971 to sell more than 1,750 Chieftain tanks and armored vehicles to Iran. The deals were canceled after Iran’s monarch Mohammad Reza Shah was deposed during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran, however, had already paid for the tanks.

International arbitrators ruled in 2008 that Britain owed the debt that is estimated to stand at £400 million. A previous international ruling had also found that Iran had a right to claim interest on the debt.

The Iranian Defense Ministry’s statement said the IMS’ refusal to clear the arrears had compelled Iran to resort to international arbitration, adding that the company was still in default of its obligation, although the verdicts have found it liable to pay the debt.

“The relevant authorities in Britain have been trying to shun their responsibility as a liable party on the international arena, especially in the eyes of the Iranian nation,” the statement said.

To try and rationalize their refusal to pay their debt, it added, the UK officials have been citing the United States’ illegal and oppressive sanctions that have come to target the Islamic Republic.

“London is expected to take practical and expeditious steps [in this regard] in order not to further prolong the Iranian government and nation’s dissatisfaction and consternation against England,” the ministry said.

The ministry, meanwhile, denied any link between the case and the issue of Nazanin Zaghari, who was arrested for spying by Iran’s intelligence authorities at Imam Khomeini International Airport in April 2016 as she was trying to leave for the UK.

Zaghari was put on trial and handed a five-year jail term after being found guilty of spying and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic.

Western media sources have claimed that she used to work for the Thomson Reuters Foundation and was on vacation in Iran when she was arrested. Some of the same outlets have also been trying to establish a link between her case and the issue of the debt.

Earlier in March, the Iranian ambassador to the UK said Britain had agreed to pay the outstanding debt it owes to Iran plus the interest, adding that the two sides are currently negotiating ways how the payment could be made.

“The legal process of this long-running case, which has been going on for more than 50 years, is nearing its end,” Hamid Baeidinejad said.

“The court has ordered the British government to pay the Iranian debt plus interest, and this cannot be changed. At the same time, the opposing lawyers have tried to use every legal opportunity to delay the practical execution of the court’s decision,” Baeidinejad added.

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