U.S. Meeting With Allies To Keep Financial Pressure On Iran

Friday, July 6th 2007, 4:04 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. officials, wanting to keep up financial pressure on Iran, plan to meet with European allies next week.

Although a range of issues related to thwarting terrorist financiers is expected to be discussed, much of the talks with government officials and representatives of financial institutions will center on Iran, said Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The U.S. government has taken a number of steps to tighten the financial vise on Iran, a country the United States accused of fostering terrorism and whose nuclear ambitions have drawn international rebuke. As a result, business flowing into Tehran has been ``dramatically constrained,'' Levey said Friday. Still, more progress is needed on clamping down on Iran's business investments, as is further international cooperation on these issues, especially with European allies, he suggested.

Iran's defiance of U.N. Security Council demands that it stop uranium enrichment and construction of a plutonium-producing reactor has led to two sets of economic sanctions against Iran. The stage has been set for a third round of U.N. Security Council penalties.

Levey, joined by a State Department official, will travel to Europe, making stops in Britain, France and Germany. They'll be gone for a week.

The United States has alleged that Iran has engaged in deceptive financial conduct. It has used front companies and other mechanisms that make it difficult, if not impossible, for companies dealing with Iran to know their actual customer, Treasury says. State-owned Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, repeatedly asked other financial institutions to remove their names from global transactions, Levey said.

Such deceptive practices will be part of the upcoming discussions as the United States and its allies share information and compare notes on Iran's behavior, Levey said. U.S. officials also are interested in talking to allies to assess the impact of financial sanctions against Tehran and efforts by the country to circumvent the clampdown.

Although some financial institutions and other companies outside the U.S. have moved to voluntarily sever business or scale back business with Iran, it is a challenging matter in part because of Iran's oil industry, which is an attractive investment for companies in Europe and elsewhere.

The trip was planned before the recently foiled terrorist strikes in Britain. Levey said the U.S. would provide any help it can in following up leads.