Iran seeks EU leverage to get financial concessions from U.S.

* Top EU team is biggest to visit Tehran in more than a
decade

* Iran signed key nuclear deal with world powers last year

* Long-isolated Iran seeks entry to global banking sector

* But White House says this not covered in nuclear deal

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Julia Fioretti

DUBAI/BRUSSELS, April 16 Iran, seeking European
leverage to secure better terms from the United States following
last year’s nuclear deal, asked the European Union to put
pressure on Washington to let it into the global financial
system.

In a visit to Tehran by a high-powered EU team in which both
sides spoke of a significant expansion in economic and energy
ties, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed EU
support for its bid to join the World Trade Organisation and
spoke of a “new beginning” in relations with Europe.

EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini, whose team of
seven commissioners was the biggest to visit Tehran in more than
a decade, said it was in Europe’s interest to make sure European
banks felt confident to do business in Iran.

But she chided Tehran for holding ballistic missile tests
despite last year’s nuclear deal and said the EU would continue
to stand firm on human rights violations in Iran.

Following last year’s nuclear deal, world powers led by the
United States and the EU lifted most sanctions on the
long-isolated Islamic Republic in January in return for curbs on
its nuclear programme.

Despite the nuclear agreement, some U.S. sanctions remain
and U.S. banks remain prohibited from doing business with Iran
directly or indirectly because Washington still accuses Tehran
of supporting terrorism and permitting human rights abuses.

Some European banks like France bank BNP Paribas or
Germany’s Commerzbank AG, once hit by huge U.S. fines for
sanctions busting, fear falling foul of the many other
restrictions imposed by Washington that remain in force.

The White House said on Friday that the nuclear agreement
did not include allowing it access to the global financial
system.

“Iran and the EU will put pressure on the United States to
facilitate the cooperation of non-American banks with Iran,”
Zarif said at a news conference in Tehran with Mogherini.

“It’s essential that the other side, especially the United
States, fulfil its commitments not on paper but in practice and
removes the obstacles especially in banking sector.”

Zarif and Mogherini said in a joint statement that the EU
and Iran were agreed on the expansion of economic relations, and
“encouraging banking cooperation.”

“EU will support and assist Iran to become a member of the
World Trade Organization (WTO),” and will pursue opening a full
EU diplomatic mission in Tehran, the statement said.

“Today is a new beginning in Iran and EU relations. We hope
this cooperation between the Iranian nation and European Union
brings about shared interests and global development,” Zarif was
quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

Mogherini, who headed a team of seven EU commissioners, said
cooperation on energy would also be important as Iranian oil and
gas would again become a part of the European energy mix and
help increase the bloc’s energy security.

MISSILES AND RIGHTS

Iranian officials have complained their country is not
getting the full economic fruits of the nuclear deal due to
American “deceitfulness”, but Washington believes it has been
Iran’s missile launches that have scared businesses off.

Since July’s nuclear deal, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Corps (IRGC) has twice conducted ballistic missile tests and the
U.S. Treasury has in return put new sanctions on entities and
individuals linked to the programme.

President Obama said this month that Iran had so far stuck
to the nuclear agreement, but Tehran’s launch of ballistic
missiles “with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel”
undermined the spirit of the deal.

Mogherini said she did not see the missile tests as a breach
of the accord between Iran and world powers, though she added it
was a worrying step.

“This doesn’t mean that we are not concerned,” Mogherini
said. “On the contrary, we see this as a worrying step … and
we are encouraging (Iran) to abstain from further steps.”

Despite the lifting of nuclear related sanctions, the EU
extended some of its sanctions on Iran because of perceived
violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic.

The EU is troubled by the more than 1,000 executions in Iran
last year. Mogherini said the EU would continue to be firm on
issue of human rights while maintaining dialogue with Iran.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Julia Fioretti; Editing
by Richard Balmforth)

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