EU court strikes down Iran sanctions
By Benjamin Fox
The EU second-highest court has deleted sanctions against seven Iranian firms and one man accused of collusion in a nuclear weapons programme.
The verdict, issued by the Luxembourg-based General Court on Friday (6 September), said EU governments failed to make their case.
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It said they "had not proved the facts" on which they blacklisted Post Bank Iran, Iran Insurance Company, Good Luck Shipping and Export Development.
It said the facts on Persia International Bank, Iranian Offshore Engineering & Construction and Naser Bateni, a former Persia International Bank director "do not by themselves justify" sanctions.
It also said the EU "breached the obligation to … disclose" its evidence against Bank Refah Kargaran.
The rulings will not take effect for at least two months, pending a possible appeal by EU governments, which could delay the process for up to one year.
Meanwhile, the court upheld sanctions against the Hamburg-based Europe-Iranian Investment Bank (EIH), and Melli Bank, Iran's largest financial institution.
In the case of Melli Bank, which is also the largest bank in the Middle East, with over 3,300 branches and 43,000 employees, the court said it had "ensured that scholarships were paid on behalf of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran," adding that this "constitutes support for nuclear proliferation."
It noted that "transactions carried out by EIH on behalf of designated Iranian entities justify the adoption of restrictive measures against it."
The EU and the US have imposed freezes on assets and financial transfers upon on a series of banks and companies in recent years in a bid to put pressure on Iran to fall in line with UN demands on nuclear transparency.
EU governments have also banned trade in Syrian oil, other petrochemicals, precious metals and gems.
The Iranian government says it is only seeking to develop nuclear technology for civilian use.
Speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Vilnius, the bloc's foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, said she would meet with Iranian foreign minister Javid Zarif on the margins of next week's UN general assembly in New York to restart nuclear talks.
"We've got some good proposals on the table," she said.
"We are always willing to listen to good proposals from Iran. We really want to move quickly to resolve this," she added.