Brussels: Appeals by Iran in the European courts to lift sanctions against the Islamic republic has worried the United States as the super power fears the sanctions against Tehran could be relaxed by the European courts.
This was said by a State Department official on Monday who urged the European Union to urgently find a way to allow judges to examine secret intelligence evidence.
Europe’s General Court told EU governments in January to lift asset freezes against Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat, two of more than a dozen Iranian banks which the European Union says are helping finance Tehran’s nuclear program.
Both the European Union and the United States view sanctions against the Iranian banking sector as a crucial component of economic pressure designed to force Tehran to scale back the nuclear work, which they suspect has covert military goals.
Iran denies that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability and says its work is for medical research and generating electricity.
The court argued that the EU has failed to provide sufficient evidence the banks are involved in financing the nuclear program, potentially eroding Europe’s sanctions efforts.
“We are well aware of this problem,” a US State Department official said during a trip to Brussels.
“We are looking at it with some concern,” he added.
At the center of the disagreement between EU governments and the court is classified information which the capitals say should not be provided to judges because that could compromise intelligence sources.
The US official said that policymakers from Washington had discussed the issue with European governments and institutions, and urged them to explore regulatory solutions that would allow, for example, for judges to review information in a secure way.
“We hope that the European Union is looking at its regulation to see if there are any changes it can make to make these (sanctions) regulations more robust when challenged in court,” he said.
“The most difficult question is whether the European Union can find a way to have courts handle classified information in a way that gives member states ... confidence it will be held in secret. We will do our part as best as we can and we think the European Union needs to focus on this with some urgency,” he added.
EU governments are likely to decide to appeal the rulings regarding Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat later this week.
More than 30 cases are still pending at the General Court, including ones filed by the Central Bank of Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Those sanctions severely affected Iran’s ability to export oil and carry out international financial transactions.