Iran parliament passes counter-terror finance bill

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TEHRAN: Iran’s parliament on Sunday approved a bill to counter terrorist financing that was strongly opposed by conservatives but seen as vital to salvaging the nuclear deal with European and Asian partners.

The bill aims to bring Iran’s laws in line with international standards and allow it to join the UN Terrorism Financing Convention.

It is one of four bills put forward by the government in recent months in a bid to meet demands by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has given Iran until later this month to tighten its laws against money laundering and terror financing.

“Neither I nor the president can guarantee that all problems will go away if we join (the UN convention),” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during Sunday’s debate.

“But I guarantee that not joining will provide the US with more excuses to increase our problems,” he added.

The issue has become particularly pressing since the United States walked out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran earlier this year and began reimposing sanctions.

The other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have sought to salvage the agreement and maintain trade with Iran, but have demanded that it accede to the FATF.

Joining the UN convention has been controversial because hardliners say it will limit Iran’s ability to support armed groups in the region such as its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.

Iran is alone with North Korea on the blacklist of the FATF, although the Paris-based organisation has suspended counter-measures since June 2017 while Iran works on reforms.

A previous bill on the mechanics of monitoring and preventing terrorist financing was signed into law in August.

Two other bills — on money-laundering and organised crime — have also been passed by parliament but have been delayed by higher authorities that vet legislation, including the Guardian Council.