Friday, 25 May 2012 17:09
TOKYO: A Japanese bank on Friday reversed a halt on transactions by the Iranian government after a US court overturned an order for a $2.6 billion asset freeze over the 1983 bombing of US barracks in Beirut.
The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said it had unfrozen payment transactions with Iranian banks outside the United States after a federal court nullified the earlier New York court ruling, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
The move came after the Japanese lender said last week that it would appeal the order, which demanded a block on assets not only in the United States but also Japan, which is "problematic under Japanese law".
The bank spokesman declined to comment on Tehran's transactions but said Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ "handles a relatively large number of transactions for trade with Iran".
On October 23, 1983, a 19-tonne explosives-laden truck rammed through barricades and detonated in front of the US barracks in the Lebanese capital, killing 241 US troops.
As part of the same wave of attacks, a French barracks was also bombed, killing 58 French paratroopers.
Tehran has denied responsibility for the attacks, but Washington subsequently named Iran on a list of terrorism-supporting states.
A 2007 court ruling in the United States ordered Iran to pay $2.65 billion to victims' families, but none of that money has reportedly been paid.
Resource-hungry Japan, which relies heavily on the Middle East for its oil, came under pressure earlier this year to curb imports from Iran, with Washington seeking to squeeze Tehran over what it says is a nuclear weapons programme.
In exchange for a reduction in its dependence on Iranian oil, Tokyo won concessions that would exempt its financial institutions from sanctions on banks that do business with the central bank in Iran, which generally handles oil purchases.
With all of its nuclear reactors now offline in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan is heavily dependent on fossil fuels to make up an energy shortfall.
Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012