US slaps sanctions on major Iranian bank

Washington: The US today slapped sanctions against a major Iranian bank, which followed the additional tough sanctions against Tehran by the European Union.

The US Treasury Department designated Iran`s third-largest bank, Bank Tejarat, for providing financial services to several Iranian banks and firms already subject to international sanctions for their involvement in Iran`s nuclear activities.

In all, 23 Iranian-linked financial institutions, so far, including all of Iran`s largest state-owned banks, have been sanctioned by the US based on their involvement in Iran`s nuclear programme.

"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 Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S 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 said.

Sanctions against Bank Tejarat have been imposed for providing financial services to Bank Mellat, the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI), the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), and the Ministry of Defense for Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL), all of which were previously designated by the the Treasury Department or the Department of State for their involvement in Iran`s nuclear activities.

Trade Capital Bank also was designated today for providing financial services to EDBI and for being owned or controlled by Bank Tejarat, the Treasury said.

"We are focused on holding Iran accountable, to ensuring that Iran understands that its stark choice here is to abide by its international obligations with regards to its nuclear program," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily news conference.

"If it were to make that decision, then to be welcomed back into the international community; but if it does not — and thus far, it has not — to face ever more strict sanctions, including the ones that you noted at the beginning of your question," Carney said.

"This process will continue to intensify, so that Iran understands fully that the pressure will not let up and the isolation will not stop until they decide to make the right choice, which is to abide by their commitments internationally and to come clean, if you will, on their nuclear aspirations," Carney said.