TEHRAN: Iran said yesterday it now has access to more than $100 billion worth of frozen overseas assets following the implementation of a landmark nuclear deal with world powers. Government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said much of the money had been piling up in banks in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey since international sanctions were tightened in 2012 over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency meanwhile quoted central bank official Nasser Hakimi as saying nine Iranian banks are now reconnected to SWIFT, a Belgian-based cooperative that handles wire transfers between financial institutions. No foreign banks operate in Iran, and ATMs in Iran are not yet linked to the global system. The historic agreement brought about the lifting of international sanctions last month after the UN certified that Iran has met all its commitments to curbing its nuclear activities under last summer’s accord.
“These assets ($100 billion) have fully been released and we can use them,” Nobakht said in comments posted on the website of state-run Press TV. He said much of the money belongs to CBI and the country’s National Development Fund. He said Iran will not bring all the money back because it can be spent on purchasing goods. Iran expects an economic breakthrough after the lifting of sanctions, which will allow it to access overseas assets and sell crude oil more freely. Mohsen Jalalpour, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, said on state TV Monday that Iranian businessmen are already able to open letters of credit for transactions in other countries.
Saudis and Iran
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has used a stopover in the Middle East yesterday to urge Saudi Arabia and Iran to compromise and interact responsibly, seeking to calm a flare-up in tensions between the two regional rivals. Ban made the comments during a two-day visit to the sultanate of Oman, which borders Saudi Arabia and shares control of approaches to the Persian Gulf with Iran.
“I hope that both Iran and Saudi Arabia, despite mistrust and difficulties, will bring realism, responsibility and compromise to their dealings, and to the region,” Ban said during an address to Oman’s National Defense College, according to a text of his remarks provided by the UN. He also expressed hope that last month’s lifting of sanctions on Iran following its landmark nuclear deal with world powers will lead to “increasingly responsible behavior in the region.” Long-simmering tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran escalated last month after Saudi authorities executed a prominent Shiite cleric, sparking protests in Iran.
Oman has long maintained contacts with its powerful neighbors, and frequently acts as a discreet mediator to some of the region’s thornier disputes. It hosted secret talks between Washington and Tehran in the lead-up to last year’s landmark nuclear deal and, more recently, negotiations aimed at resolving the civil war in neighboring Yemen. It has also helped secure the release of a number of captives held by Yemeni rebels. Ban praised Oman for its “unique role of bringing people together … facilitating dialogue and finding common ground.” His visit included talks with senior Omani officials including Yusuf bin Alawi, the minister responsible for foreign affairs.- Agencies