Lew: US must make clear some Iran sanctions are lifted

US treasury secretary responds to Tehran’s complaint that investors remain skittish over non-nuclear sanctions, which are still in force

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew speaks with journalists in Hong Kong, March 1, 2016. (AP/Kin Cheung, File)
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew speaks with journalists in Hong Kong, March 1, 2016. (AP/Kin Cheung, File)

WASHINGTON — The United States is obliged to make clear that certain sanctions no longer apply to non-American banks when dealing with Iran, the US Treasury secretary said.

“When Iran took the actions that it took, we took the actions that we committed to take, which is to lift nuclear sanctions,” Jacob Lew said Monday at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual leadership conference. “It was imperative that we be clear what that meant.”

Lew was asked at the conference to respond to Stuart Levey, a former undersecretary of the Treasury who was charged with implementing the sanctions. Levey, the top lawyer for HSBC, a British bank, said last week that the Obama administration is sending European banks mixed messages.

The Iranians have complained that the effect of the lifting of some sanctions as part of last year’s sanctions-relief-for-nuclear-rollback deal has yet to be felt because of an array of other sanctions that remain in place.

“It’s also important that Iran understands that there remain sanctions on terrorism and the issues we’ve described,” Lew said.

U.S. businesses are still banned from directly dealing with Iran, with minor exceptions, and third parties are still subject to sanctions having to do with Iran’s backing for terrorism, its missile testing and its human rights violations.

Secretary of State John Kerry met last week with leaders of European financial institutions to clarify where they may do business and what is still off-limits.

Levey, who in his 2004-2011 stint at the Treasury was an architect of many of the Iran sanctions, said in the op-ed he wrote for The Wall Street Journal that he was not reassured and would keep HSBC from doing business with Iran.

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