Washington -- The U.S. Treasury Department has designated an Iranian state-owned bank as a supporter of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and urged other countries to consider similar actions aimed at blocking Iran's illegal nuclear and missiles programs.
In a January 9 news release, the department said Bank Sepah International Plc has provided financial support and services to a state-owned Iranian industrial group that oversees, manages and coordinates that country's missile industries and programs. The designation bans any transactions with Bank Sepah by any U.S. company or private person and freezes all that bank's assets under U.S. jurisdiction.
"Bank Sepah is the financial linchpin of Iran's missiles procurement network and has actively assisted Iran's pursuit of missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction," Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey said in the release.
The bank also facilitated business between Iranian companies and North Korea's chief ballistic missile exporter, previously designated by the Treasury as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction, according to the release.
This relationship is "of great concern to the United States, Levey said in a prepared statement.
He said the U.S. action is the latest in a series of steps to combat Iran's and other countries' abuse of the international financial system to finance terrorism or back nuclear programs.
For example, in September 2006, the Treasury designated another Iranian state-owned bank, Bank Saderat, as a financier of international terrorism.
Levey said that in recent months the effect of such formal moves has been amplified greatly by a "dramatic shift" in attitudes of leading international banks and other companies. Acting voluntarily, they have reduced or entirely ended their business relationships with Iranian entities, he said. Levey said those companies have begun to re-evaluate their Iran-related business as evidence has accumulated of that country's deceptive financial practices designed to hide the true nature of specific financial transactions.
By branding Bank Sepah, Levey said, the United States is also meeting its obligation under a resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council in December 2006 that requires countries to deny financial support to Iran's illegal nuclear and missile programs.
"We urge other countries likewise to fulfill this serious obligation," he said.
What the United States hopes to see, though, is not the escalation of punitive measures against Teheran, Levey told reporters the same day, but rather a change in the defiant policy being pursued by Iran.
He said the best outcome of sanctions would be if the Iranians recognize that their policies would leave them isolated from the international community to the detriment of their economy.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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