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Secret U.S. - Iran meeting downplayed

Iranians say talks with banking officials are only a low level "exchange of views."

Associated Press
Published February 17, 2008


TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's economy minister on Saturday downplayed a secret meeting last month between U.S. and Iranian banking officials, calling it "an exchange of views" over the Islamic nation's new money laundering law.

The minister, Davoud Danesh Jafari, said the rare encounter included no senior officials. "There was an exchange of views," Jafari told reporters in Tehran.

Andrew DeSouza, a U.S. Treasury Department spokesman, said the Jan. 24 meeting between the Financial Action Task Force and the Iranian delegation was to discuss "Iran's noncompliance with international standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing."

The Bush administration is attempting to ramp up international pressure on Iran to halt atomic activities that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear project is peaceful.

The administration also wants Iran to stop its support for groups the United States has designated as terrorist organizations.

Daniel Glaser, the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, was the meeting's co-chairman. An Iranian Central Bank expert and an official from the Iranian Ministry of Economy attended, Jafari said.

The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Formal contact is limited, though meetings have occurred, most recently between their envoys to Iraq on security matters.

The Financial Action Task Force is a 34-nation body that deals with threats posed to the international financial system by money laundering and support for terrorism.

PRESIDENT OPPOSED: Iran's constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, on Saturday opposed an attempt by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to expand his administration's power, saying the move "lacks legal justification."