|U.S. senators press EU on Iran sanctions: report||
TEHRAN – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Monday pressed the EU to deny Iran access to its euro-denominated foreign exchange reserves, in a new push to tighten sanctions ahead of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the Financial Times reported.
In a move which could increase the financial pressure on Iran but also risks generating a backlash in Europe, 36 senators signed a letter which called on the EU to close “a significant loophole in U.S.-EU sanctions policy.”
The letter was sent to Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council. It focuses on Target2, a cross-border payments system operated by the European Central Bank, which the senators allege is being used to facilitate Iranian trade transactions.
“We strongly urge you to take all the necessary measures to cut off Iran’s ability to use its foreign-held euros,” the letter says.
The U.S. Congress is stepping up the pressure on the EU over sanctions just as U.S. and European negotiators, together with Russia and China, held talks in Kazakhstan on Tuesday with Iran over its nuclear program.
U.S. officials say that further sanctions could be imposed if Iran does not demonstrate what they describe as a willingness to negotiate.
“There is still time but there is only time if Iran makes the decision to come to the table and negotiate in good faith,” John Kerry, the new secretary of state, said in London on Monday. “We are prepared to negotiate in good faith, in mutual respect, in an effort to avoid whatever terrible consequences could follow failure.”
In addition to the letter, the U.S. Congress is preparing legislation that would focus on the Target2 payments system. Previous sanctions have made it hard for Iran to conduct cross-border oil business in U.S. dollars, but have been less successful at closing off business in other currencies.
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