Tehran Vows Response to US “Robbery” Attempt

Tehran Vows Response to US “Robbery” Attempt Tehran Vows Response to US “Robbery” Attempt

If the US attempts to "rob" the assets of Iranian government, Iran would take all possible measures to preserve the rights of its nation, said the Foreign Ministry's spokesman.

In a press conference on Monday, Hossein Jaber Ansari was responding to media reports about 53 American diplomats and citizens, who were taken hostage in Iran in 1979 for spying and undermining the Islamic Revolution, getting financial compensation.

Politicians in the US congress have included a payment provision in the 2016 budget bill.

"According to the Algiers Accords, it is not possible for the US to seize the Iranian government's assets," he said.

The Algiers Accords are a set of agreements between Iran and the US signed in 1981 to resolve the dispute over hostage-taking. As part of the deal, the US waived its rights and those of the hostages to seek damages from Iran.

"The compensation which is to be paid to American hostages will be funded from assets seized from a French bank," he said.  "It has nothing to do with Iranian government's properties."

The Paris-based bank BNP Paribas was forced in 2014 to pay a $9 billion penalty for violating sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba. Some of that money was suddenly available for payment to the hostages.

Ansari explained that in a separate development, the US is trying to seize the assets of the Central Bank of Iran, due to Iran's alleged role in the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.            

The spokesman said "the Central Bank is a non-governmental body," which means it cannot be punished for alleged charges against Iran’s government.

"CBI has submitted a cross claim and is pursuing the lawsuit to protect its assets," Ansari said.

The US Supreme Court took up the case on Oct. 1 upon the request of CBI after other lower US courts had found Iran culpable for the attacks and ordered it to pay damages to over 1,300 American plaintiffs.

  Obstacles in the Way

On the new US visa law placing restrictions on travelers to Iran, Ansari said Iran can take the issue to the Joint Commission under the nuclear deal, which is tasked with implementing the terms laid down in the deal, but the decision to do so should be taken first.

Earlier this month, the US Congress passed a law restricting visa-free travel rights for people who have visited Iran or hold dual Iranian nationality, a measure that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif termed "a breach of the nuclear deal" reached between the country and major world powers last July.

Ansari said an Iranian committee tasked with overseeing the deal would be responsible for deciding the response to any breach.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, a prominent nuclear negotiator who heads the committee, has also said the visa law contravenes the deal.

Asked why the US Congress is now taking such controversial measures against Iran while a few days are left to the implementation of the nuclear deal, the diplomat said the bitter opponents of the deal, consisting of anti-Iran American politicians, some regional states and Zionists are trying to do all they can to create obstacles.

"We should pursue plans to decrease their chance of succeeding in efforts [to prevent the deal from being implemented] and maximize the interests of the Iranian nation," he said.

If the US fails to fulfill its commitments under the deal, Ansari said "the violation would not be left unanswered".

  Warmer Saudi Ties

On efforts for a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, Ansari said there have been conversations between the two countries' officials on the sidelines of international meetings, but the two sides do not prefer to say anything before reaching a conclusion.

He said Iran is ready for improvement in its relations with Saudi Arabia, if Saudi officials show a serious desire for the good of Middle East and to solve problems inflicted on the regional countries.

"It will help advance the interests of the two countries and also prepare the ground for taking serious measures to handle the critical situation in West Asia," he said.

Ansari said if the Saudis change their approach and the two major players of the region get ready for cooperation to solve the regional problems, lower damages would be inflicted on the people and the governments of the region.