Germany Rebuffs U.S. Calls to Shut Iran Bank

Germany is resisting international pressure to
freeze the activities of an Iranian-owned bank based in Hamburg that
U.S. officials say provides the financial lifeblood for some of Iran’s
blacklisted companies.

U.S. and European Union officials in recent months have stepped up
pressure on Germany to close down the European-Iranian Trade Bank
AG—including a Feb. 2 letter from 11 U.S. senators to German Foreign
Minister Guido Westerwelle that urged immediate action. The U.S. says
the German-licensed bank, known as EIH Bank for its German initials, has
become a major financial conduit for Iranian companies involved in
weapons proliferation. Last September, it added EIH to its own blacklist
of entities banned from the U.S. financial system.

Germany has rebuffed such appeals, arguing that it has no proof of
illegal activity. In February, it also blocked a French proposal
presented in Brussels to designate EIH for EU sanctions, two diplomats
familiar with the meetings say.

In a statement, EIH says its activities are legal and that it continues to operate under a German license.

In a response to the U.S. senators last month, Mr. Westerwelle said
the bank operates under strict German oversight, a person familiar with
the letter said. Should the oversight officials discover any suspicious
activity, it would be forwarded to the EU sanctions committee, …

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