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NUKEWARS
Britain cuts ties with Iran banks over nuclear concerns
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Nov 21, 2011


US to announce 'new steps' against Iran: Treasury
Washington Nov 21, 2011 - The US Treasury Department on Monday said it would announce "new steps" to pressure Iran amid renewed suspicion about Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are expected to make an announcement of further sanctions around 2130 GMT. The two will "outline new steps the United States is taking to increase pressure on Iran," a Treasury announcement said. The measures are expected to target Iran's financial, oil and petrochemical sectors, after a report by the UN atomic energy watchdog strongly suggesting Iran was trying to build nuclear weapons. They also follow US allegations last month that Iranian officials were involved in a thwarted plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington. The move appears to be part of a coordinated effort by Western governments to isolate Iran in the absence of further multilateral UN sanctions. Earlier on Monday finance minister George Osborne said Britain was cutting links with Iranian banks because of "evidence" that they are involved in the development of a nuclear weapons program. "The UK government has just announced new financial sanctions against Iran. We are ceasing all contact between the UK financial system and the Iranian banking system," Osborne said. "Today's announcement is a further step to preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons." Iran denies Western claims it is developing nuclear weapons. It is not clear if the US measures will target Iran's Central Bank, a move some experts say could have a profound impact on Iran's economy and global energy prices. US and European officials have said they worry that hitting the central bank with sanctions could send oil prices abruptly soaring as Iran's big oil exports would have a harder time getting to market. There was little market reaction to the news. Oil prices in New York and London were pushed lower by fears about the economy and debt levels in the United States and Europe.

Britain is severing links with Iranian banks because of evidence that they are involved in the development of a nuclear weapons programme, finance minister George Osborne said Monday.

"The UK government has just announced new financial sanctions against Iran. We are ceasing all contact between the UK financial system and the Iranian banking system," Osborne said.

"We're doing this because of international evidence that Iran's banks are involved in the development of Iran's... military nuclear weapon programme."

The evidence was in a report from the UN nuclear watchdog which last week came the closest yet to accusing Iran outright of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, he said.

The Treasury said it was the first time London had cut all of a country's banks off from the British financial sector, and the Central Bank of Iran was also be included.

The United States said it would follow Britain later Monday with new restrictions on Iran, expected to target the financial, oil and petrochemical sectors.

The moves appeared to be part of coordinated efforts by Western governments to isolate Tehran, which has already been hit by four sets of UN sanctions as well as European Union and US restrictions.

Osborne added in a statement: "We believe that the Iranian regime's actions pose a significant threat to the UK's national security and the international community.

"Today's announcement is a further step to preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons."

Iran denies Western claims it is developing nuclear weapons.

The Treasury in London said that Iranian banks play a crucial role in providing financial services to individuals and entities within Iran's nuclear programme.

"All UK credit and financial institutions are required to cease business relationships and transactions with all Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, and their branches and subsidiaries," said a ministry statement.

By cutting Iranian banks off from the major finance hub of London, it would be more difficult for them to use the international financial system to support its nuclear programme, it said.

The move would also "protect the UK financial sector from being unknowingly used by Iranian banks for proliferation related transactions," it added.

Some experts have cautioned that targeting the Central Bank could have a profound impact on Iran's economy and global energy prices.

Iran stayed away Monday from a UN atomic agency forum on creating a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, with its ambassador to the Vienna-based body, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, attacking last week's report as "inappropriate."

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