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U.S. Announces New Swiss Humanitarian Channel To Iran

Updated

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook (file photo)

The U.S. government announced on January 30 that it had successfully completed transactions for the benefit of Iranian medical patients using a payment mechanism through Switzerland that bypasses the Iranian government.

Designed to get humanitarian exports to the Iranian people, the system ensures no revenue or payment is transferred to Iran, whom Washington accuses of misusing such channels for corruption and the promotion of terrorism, the Treasury Department said in a news release on January 30.

Specifically, the sale and delivery of cancer and transplant drugs to Iran was completed, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said at a briefing in Washington on January 30.

"The United States is determined to ensure the Iranian people have access to food, life-saving medicines, and other humanitarian goods, despite the regime’s economic mismanagement and wasteful funding of malign activities across the region," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The specially designed humanitarian channel was announced on October 25 and restricts the Central Bank of Iran's (CBI) role in facilitating humanitarian trade because the "CBI and its senior officials have facilitated significant funds transfers to terrorist organizations," according to the Treasury Department.

Hook alleged that last year 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) intended for medical supplies disappeared in Iran, apparently being used to fund what the Treasury called "nefarious purposes."

The mechanism allows items that are exempt from existing Iranian sanctions to be exported, including agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical devices. It ensures that these items "are not diverted by the Iranian regime to fund its nefarious purposes," the Treasury Department said.

The sanctions were reimposed after President Donald Trump in May 2018 unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 international deal over Iran's nuclear program.

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's UN mission, said the opening of the channel was evidence of "false claims" that medicine and food were exempt from the sanctions.

"If they were...then why require this special channel?" he wrote in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Hook also announced additional sanctions on Iran and, in particular, on the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and its chief officer, Ali Akhbar Salehi, for the alleged proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"The AEOI has played a big role in breaching its key nuclear commitments. It has exceeded its limits of uranium stockpiles and enrichment levels. The head of AEOI personally inaugurated the installation of new advanced centrifuges to expand its uranium enrichment capacity," Hook said.

On January 31, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mussavi said the move will have "no influence whatsoever on the progress of our atomic program," according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

Additionally, the United States is renewing for 60 days four nuclear restrictions on Iran that permit the continuation of nonproliferation projects that constrain Iran's nuclear activities.

The waivers will allow Russian, Chinese, and European companies to continue work at Iranian nuclear sites to make it harder for that country to develop a nuclear weapon.

"We will closely monitor all developments in Iran's nuclear program and [U.S] Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo can end these projects as developments warrant," Hook told the news briefing.

Initially, the 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- saw Tehran agree to limit its nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions that had adversely affected its economy.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa
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