Iran has suddenly withdrawn $75 billion of assets from Europe, anticipating threatened European Union sanctions over Tehran’s alleged nuclear ambitions, the credible gulfinthemedia.com news Web site reports.
Iran’s refusal to suspend nuclear-enrichment activities, a process that can create fuel for power plants or material for nuclear weapons, has drawn three rounds of U.N. sanctions since 2006.
President Bush and other NATO leaders had threatened Iran with punitive measures if it presses on with the enrichment of uranium. On Saturday, Iran again ruled out suspending uranium enrichment despite an offer from six world powers to help the nation develop a civilian nuclear program if it ends activities the United States and others suspect are designed to produce weapons.
The offer – agreed to last month by the United States, Britain, Russia, China, Germany and France – is a revised version of one rejected by Tehran two years ago.
EU diplomats have said the bloc is preparing to freeze European-based funds and assets of Iran’s biggest bank, the state-owned Bank Melli, but was waiting for Tehran’s responded to the new offer.
“Part of Iran’s assets in European banks have been converted to gold and shares, and another part has been transferred to Asian banks,” said Mohsen Talaie, Iran’s deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs, the Iranian news weekly Shahrvand-e Emrouz reported, and that the withdrawals were ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran is making windfall gains from record global oil prices and said in April its foreign exchange reserves stood at more than $80 billion.
Western countries suspect Iran hopes to manufacture nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its discrete program is purely aimed at generating energy.
This Piece Ran in the Philadelphia Bulletin on June 18th, 2008.