Kerry: Iran Open for Business

Kerry: Iran Open for Business Kerry: Iran Open for Business

US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated on Tuesday Iran is "open for business" for European banks.

He contended that businesses around the world are using the United States as an excuse to avoid doing business with Iran.

Ahead of a meeting on Iran with European bankers, Kerry said it was unfair and inaccurate for businesses to blame US sanctions for their decision to stay away.

He said the US had an obligation to live up to the nuclear deal with Iran by clarifying what's now permitted as a result of that accord, AP reported.

"If they don't want to do business or they don't see a good business deal, they shouldn't say, 'Oh, we can't do it because of the United States'," Kerry told reporters in London. "We sometimes get used as an excuse in this process."

The top US diplomat's comments came as the US works to address Iran's complaints that it has not received the sanctions relief it was promised in exchange for rolling back its nuclear program. Under the deal, broad US sanctions on Iran's economy were removed, clearing the way for foreign companies to do business with most Iranian companies.

Yet some specific Iranian entities are still off-limits under the remaining US sanctions. And the US maintains a prohibition on Iran accessing the American financial system or directly conducting transactions in US dollars, fueling confusion and practical impediments since international transactions routinely cross through the US banking system.

"It's just not as complicated as some people think," said Kerry, who planned to discuss the concerns on Thursday with top European bankers in Britain. He said banks in Europe were free to open accounts for Iran, fund programs and lend money.

"That's absolutely open for business as long as it's not a designated entity, period. Very simple."

Asian and European government and companies, primarily banks, have sought written clarification about what current US laws and financial regulations allow. Essentially, they want a promise that the US will not prosecute or punish them for transactions involving Iran—a step the US has so far been reluctant to take.

US officials have suggested that some foreign companies have other reasons for avoiding Iran, including the country's outdated financial system that fails to meet modern international standards, as well as Iran's alleged support for terrorism and human rights violations.

***Legitimate Concerns

Yet foreign companies have cited legitimate concerns about potential punishment from the US if they violate the remaining sanctions.

In 2014, before the nuclear deal, French bank BNP Paribas agreed to pay almost $9 billion in penalties and plead guilty to processing transactions for clients in Iran and other US-sanctioned nations.

What's more, foreign companies are unsure whether US President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran will survive.

Although the Democratic candidates for president support the deal, Republicans have lambasted it and threatened to slap back sanctions after Obama leaves office.

"I just don't believe that a new president, regardless, is going to suddenly say, 'Let's go have a war in the Middle East and give up the restraint on a nuclear weapon'," Kerry said, reprising Obama's argument that opponents of the nuclear deal are by default advocating war with Iran.

Iran denies the allegation that its nuclear activities may have been aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability, saying the program is totally meant for peaceful purposes.

The Obama administration's efforts to provide assurances about doing business with Iran have stoked outrage from Republicans and some Democratic opponents of the deal, who argue the US should not be advocating economically for a country still accused by the US of sponsoring terrorism.

In recent weeks, top officials from the Treasury Department and the State Department have fanned out across the globe to explain to foreign countries and companies what's permissible under the deal.

Kerry said that as the chief architect of the sanctions and key player in brokering the deal, the US had an obligation to carry out the agreement dutifully.

"Iran has a right to the benefits of the agreement they signed up to," Kerry said. "If people by confusion or misinterpretation or in some cases disinformation are being misled, it's appropriate for us to try to clarify that."