UN ready to help on Iran assets dispute if US agrees

2 min

United Nations (United States) (AFP)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is ready to help settle a dispute between Iran and the United States on Tehran's frozen assets, but only if both countries make that request, a UN spokesman said Friday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on Ban to use his "good offices" to press the United States to release all frozen assets in US banks, in a letter sent Thursday.

"The secretary-general's good offices are always available should both parties to whatever tensions or issue request it," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Zarif wrote to Ban in response to a US Supreme Court decision last week that said Tehran's frozen assets can be used to compensate victims of terror attacks.

The foreign minister called the ruling "outrageous robbery disguised under a court order" and warned that Tehran reserves the right to take "counter-measures".

The Supreme Court ruled on April 20 that Iran must hand over nearly $2 billion in frozen assets to the more than 1,000 survivors and relatives of those killed in attacks blamed on Tehran.

The attacks included the 1983 bombing of US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

"It is in fact the United States that must pay long overdue reparations to the Iranian people for its persistent hostile policies," wrote Zarif.

He cited US involvement in the 1953 Iran coup, US backing for Baghdad in the Iran-Iraq war and the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by a US missile in 1988 as grounds for US compensation to Iranian nationals.

Under a historic deal reached last year on curbing Iran's nuclear program, tens of billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets are to be released.

The Supreme Court ruling came after a New York tribunal in March ordered Tehran to pay $7.5 billion to victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- and $3 billion to insurers over related claims -- after ruling that Iran had failed to prove that it did not help the bombers.

Zarif called the claim of Iranian involvement in the 9/11 attacks "absurd," saying it contradicts "even public statements as well as findings -- open or sealed -- of investigations by the US government and US Congress."