Germany tightens cash transfer rules as Iran seeks funds

BERLIN — Germany's central bank is changing its terms and conditions to provide for deeper scrutiny of cash transfers, a move that comes as Iran seeks to repatriate cash held in a Hamburg-based bank and the U.S. presses allies to get tough on Tehran.

Iran wants to bring home 300 million euros ($347 million) it has in the European-Iranian Trade Bank ahead of new U.S. sanctions. German authorities have been examining the request for weeks, and the U.S. has made clear its concerns about potential terrorist financing and money-laundering.

Changes to its business conditions taking effect Aug. 25, and released in late July, allow the Bundesbank to block cash transfers in the absence of assurances from those involved in a transaction that it doesn't violate financial sanctions or rules to prevent money-laundering and the funding of terrorism. It also mentions possible risks to "important relationships with third countries' central banks and financial institutions."

The changes don't specifically mention Iran, but are widely viewed as a reaction to the transfer request.

"We are grateful to our German partners at the chancellery and throughout the government for recognizing the need to act," U.S. ambassador Richard Grenell told The Associated Press on Saturday. "Iran's malign activities throughout Europe are a growing concern for us."

The German finance ministry said this week, after Germany's Bild daily reported on the new Bundesbank rules, that the Iranian request is still under consideration — a process that involves Germany's financial market regulator and financial intelligence unit.

The matter is awkward for Germany because the government is also committed to keeping alive the 2015 deal with Iran which provides incentives in exchange for Tehran not pursuing a nuclear weapon. Iran has indicated it will stay aboard as long as the remaining signatories stick to the deal and it continues to enjoy economic incentives.

President Donald Trump's administration began dismantling the sanctions relief that was granted to Iran under the deal in June, a month after Trump announced the United States' unilateral withdrawal from the accord.

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