US aims at kicking Tehran out of global bank network

President Barack ObamaWASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama’s administration is pressuring the European Union and a global electronic banking system to expel Iranian banks from a network used to transfer money, another step in Western efforts to deprive Tehran of funds needed to develop nuclear weapons.

Kicking Iranian banks out of the Belgium-based SWIFT, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, would cut off one of the only remaining avenues for Iran to transact business with the rest of the world.SWIFT facilitates the bulk of the world’s cross-border payments, exchanging 18 million payment messages per day between banks and other financial institutions in 210 countries.

The US and Europe have already slapped sanctions on Iran’s central bank, the main clearinghouse for its oil revenues, which would punish Tehran’s trading partners if they continue to buy Iranian oil. The US Congress is considering new legislation that would give the United States authority to sanction SWIFT, but the Obama administration indicated it was already ramping up the pressure.

Meanwhile, the European Union brushed off on Thursday the potential impact of any Iranian suspension of oil supplies saying such a threat would not sway Europe from its opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.The European Union’s trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, said Europe would adapt to the impact of any Iranian action and Europe remained committed to halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“If they were to cut it off earlier, we would accommodate quicker, that’s what we’d do,” he told a group of business people and journalists in Hong Kong after a trip to Beijing.He said the European Union was determined to press Iran to rein in its nuclear ambitions, just as it proclaimed advances in nuclear know-how, including new centrifuges able to enrich uranium much faster. “Nobody really wants Iran to have nuclear weapons … we shouldn’t change our line because it’s a threat by Iran, that’s not the way it works.” – Arabnews