Iranian foreign ministry denies transfer of assets


The Times, London
Saturday, January 21, 2006,,251-2003034,00.html

Iran is transferring its assets from European accounts to other
foreign banks to try to pre-empt possible United Nations sanctions
over its nuclear programme, a senior Iranian official said.

The official confirmed comments from Ebrahim Sheibani, the governor
of the Central Bank, which were carried on the Iranian ISNA student
news agency, that Iran had started transferring funds. There were no
details as to where the funds might be heading. Mr Sheibani
said: "We transfer foreign reserves to wherever we see as

The Asharq al-Awsat Arabic daily said that the Supreme National
Security Council had ordered that $8 billion (4.5 billion), about a
quarter of its overseas assets, be moved to Singapore, Shanghai,
Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

Iranian overseas holdings are thought to top $30 billion, of which
$4.1 billion was in Britain at the end of September, according to
Bank of England data.

* * *

Iran Calls for Oil Output Cut

By Gareth Smyth and Najmeh Bozorgmehr
Financial Times, London
Friday, January 20,

Iran has called for a cut in global oil production while
simultaneously preparing to shift its foreign assets out of Europe.

The moves were widely interpreted as a signal that Iran is preparing
for a long stand-off with the west and sees oil production as a
counter weight to international economic pressure.

Tehran's call on Friday for the Organisation of the Petroleum
Exporting Countries to reduce production by 1m barrels a day helped
take prices up to a four-month high of more than $68 a barrel, even
though Iran is the only Opec member to call for the cut and is
unlikely to find much support for the measure at Opec's meeting in
Vienna on January 31.

Some traders said Iran's comment was a sign that Tehran might be
willing to use the threat of halting its substantial oil production
as a political tool in its nuclear spat with the west. Iran is the
fourth biggest oil exporter and main supplier to Japan, South Korea,
France and Italy. The media in Iran this week has highlighted the
upward pressure on oil prices simply through talk of sanctions.

Just hours earlier, Ebrahim Sheibani, the Central Bank governor,
said Iran would transfer the foreign exchange reserves "wherever we
consider expedient" and confirmed a shift from Europe had begun.

Analysts say Iran is fearful that its deteriorating relationship
with Europe could lead to a seizure of assets.

Mr Sheibani refused to give details or to say where Iran's funds
were going, although several local news agencies reported the
destination was southeast Asia. The Central Bank manages
Iran's "windfall" oil revenue in the Oil Stabilisation Fund, which
Mr Sheibani said would contain about $15bn (12.4bn) by the end of
March. Iran keeps an unknown amount of this in Europe.

According to the International Monetary Fund, Iran's foreign
exchange reserves are $30.6bn in hard currency. Tehran has another
$9bn in foreign assets (but not necessarily liquid) abroad, it says.

A court in Rome last month ordered Banca Nazionale del Lavoro to
freeze an account held by the Iranian government, pending a lawsuit
over the deaths of three Americans in the Israeli-occupied
Palestinian territories.

Iran has protested that its official accounts were protected by the
Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations. But families of US
citizens killed in the bombing of its Beirut embassy in 1983 by
Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shia militant group, plan to follow suit --
asking European courts to seize Iranian assets after a US ruling
that Iran should pay $126m in damages.


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