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Swiss Government Says First Deal With Iran Via Humanitarian Channel Completed

A large crowd of Iranians waits to get prescription drugs at a state-run pharmacy in Tehran in February.

A Swiss pharmaceutical firm has completed the first transaction under a new humanitarian trade channel with Iran, the government of Switzerland said on July 27.

Trial operations started in January under the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) to bring food and medicine to the struggling Iranian population without violating U.S. sanctions.

"We would like to emphasize that the operationalization of the SHTA is progressing and that a number of companies have already been approved, more companies will follow. Further transactions should be carried out shortly," the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said in an e-mail to Reuters.

SECO did not identify the pharmaceutical company or give a value for the shipment, which it said involved a cancer drug.

Food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions that Washington reimposed on Tehran after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

But the U.S. measures targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with Iran -- including humanitarian deals.

Under the January trial, cancer drugs and drugs required for organ transplants worth 2.3 million euros ($2.7 million) were shipped to Iran.

Geneva-based bank BCP and pharmaceutical company Novartis took part in the pilot deal.

With reporting by Reuters