21 Jan 2021
South Korean banks wary of U.S. sanctions are holding tight to billions of dollars of Iranian funds, Iran says, apparently unwilling to budge before Joe Biden assumes the U.S. presidency.
The banks won’t release $7 billion of payments for Iranian oil that are stuck in won-denominated deposits in South Korea, not even to a special humanitarian trade channel partly overseen by the U.S. government itself, said the governor of the Central Bank of Iran, Abdolnaser Hemmati, who met with a top South Korean diplomat last week.
They’re showing “full cooperation” with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign to isolate Iran from the global banking system through sanctions, Hemmati said on Monday in a written reply to questions sent by Bloomberg. He denied that the seizure of a South Korean-flagged tanker by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last month was related to the dispute over the funds.
The fate of the trapped money has taken on added urgency with Biden’s Jan. 20 assumption of power. The U.S. president-elect has said he’s open to removing sanctions and rejoining world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran if Tehran returns to full compliance with the accord Donald Trump quit in 2018.
By Golnar Motevalli, Bloomberg, 19 January 2021
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