TEHRAN — Iran has assets of $29 billion in overseas banks that could be unlocked under a nuclear deal, far less than reported estimates of over $100 billion, the country’s central bank chief said.
Valiollah Seif told state television late Saturday that the holdings comprised $23 billion in foreign exchange belonging to the bank and another $6 billion of the Tehran government’s money.
The remarks from Seif, central bank governor since September 2013, suggest that under the nuclear deal struck on July 14, Iran stands to regain far less in fresh funds than has been stated.
Seif said the figure of more than $100 billion included “$35 billion already allocated for oil projects and $22 billion held on security deposit guarantee in Chinese banks” for buying goods.
Opponents of the final nuclear deal agreed in Vienna, notably Israel, have cited figures of $100 billion and more, saying access to such large sums would allow Iran to boost its support for militant groups across the Middle East.
Iran has provided billions of dollars of credit and other financial aid to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is fighting a four-year old Arab- and Western-backed uprising.
And Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said unblocked money will allow Tehran to further its backing for Lebanese group Hezbollah and Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Tehran has said the money is needed for domestic investment in oil and gas, petrochemicals and other key industries.
Seif appealed for more foreign interest in Iran’s damaged economy. “We can absorb between $200-$300 billion in foreign investment,” he said.