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Austria casts doubt on immediate bans lift from Iran

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him (R) and his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer during a press conference in Tehran on September 8, 2015.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer has cast doubt on the US and Western resolve for the immediate removal of all anti-Iran sanctions.

Fischer has told IRIB that it is unclear how long it will take for the West to lift sanctions on Iran.

Iran's historic agreement last year with permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) went into force on January 16 to end 13-years of Western dispute over Tehran's nuclear program and pave the way for the lifting of sanctions on the country.

But more than two months later, Iran is still awaiting the full opening of business transactions with some companies in the West as some banks are facing restrictions in the US on handling business with Tehran.

The Austrian leader said it was not up to a single country to lift all the sanctions, but that the United States had a part to play.

"Austria alone cannot lift the sanctions. The EU cannot do it alone too, but it is the international community that should do it," Fischer said.

"The US also plays a role in this regard," he added.

“A process for sanctions removal has begun, but I cannot make any predictions on how long this issue will last. I hope all sides fully adhere to the [nuclear] agreement.”

The Austrian president was answering a question on issues facing Iranian banks, some of which still seek to join the international payments system, SWIFT, for the resumption of foreign transfers.

The Austrian leader paid a visit to Tehran in September 2015 at the head of a 240-member delegation with the purpose of discussing ways to improve Tehran-Vienna relations.

Not all the banks in Iran have been able to reconnect to SWIFT since the lifting of sanctions was announced in January.

A senior Iranian official said last month that 26 Iranian banks have so far been reconnected to SWIFT after the removal of the economic sanctions against Iran in mid-January. 

SWIFT – the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication – is used by nearly every bank around the world to send payment messages that lead to the transfer of money across international borders. It provides a wide range of service including transmitting letters of credit, payments and securities transactions among 9,700 banks in 209 countries.

However, it became off limits to Iranian banks in 2012 after the implementation of the US-led sanctions against the country. Accordingly, around 30 Iranian banks were blocked from using SWIFT services, literally cutting off Iran from the global banking system.

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