US targets Iran’s third largest bank

January 24th, 2012 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 24 (IANS) The US Monday added Bank Tejarat, Iran’s third largest bank, on its blacklist for sanctions, citing its links to the Islamic republic’s nuclear bomb efforts.

The Department of Treasury alleged that the bank provides financial services to several Iranian banks and firms already put under international sanctions for their involvement in Iran’s weapons of mass destruction proliferation activities, reported Xinhua.

The move brings 23 Iranian-linked financial institutions, including all of the country’s largest state-owned banks, under US sanctions for their involvement in the republic’s “illicit activities”, the Treasury said in a statement.

“At a time when banks around the world are cutting off Iran and its currency is depreciating rapidly, today’s action against Bank Tejarat strikes at one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the international financial system,” said Under Secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

“Today’s sanction against Bank Tejarat will deepen Iran’s financial isolation, make its access to hard currency even more tenuous, and further impair Iran’s ability to finance its illicit nuclear program,” he added.

Trade Capital Bank, a Minsk-based bank in Belarus that is owned by Bank Tejarat, was blacklisted for sanctions as well.

The Treasury accused Bank Tejarat, which has nearly 2,000 branches throughout Iran as well as foreign branches in Paris, France and Dushanbe, Tajikistan, of facilitating directly Iran’s “illicit nuclear efforts.”

The US expanded its sanctions against Iran to cover its central bank and financial sector at the end of last year, while the European Union decided earlier Monday to ban imports of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products, freeze the assets of the Iranian central bank, and take additional action against Iran’s energy, financial and transport sectors.

The efforts aim to press Iran to engage seriously in talks over its nuclear program, which the West says is a cover for making nuclear weapons, a claim rejected by Iran.

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