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Iran’s Foreign Ministry Denies Plans To Extradite Soleimani

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif (R), meeting with the senior military officer in the IRGC and the commander of Quds Force Ghasem Soleimani (reportedly in late May 2017).

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has categorically denied accusations by a former member of parliament that if the regulations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are implemented, the Iranian government would have to hand over IRGC commander Ghasem Soleimani to the United States.

The FATF is an intergovernmental body that sets standards and promotes effective legal, regulatory, and operational measures against money laundering, terrorist financing, and other threats related to the integrity of the international financial system.

Iran has been on the FATF blacklist of high-risk countries as a possible violator of international money-laundering regulations. But in June 2016 the Iranian Central Bank reached an agreement with the FATF to join an “action plan” of cooperation, and FATF suspended some restrictions on Iran for 12 months.

Iranian conservatives immediately reacted to this agreement by criticizing the government of President Hassan Rouhani for cooperating with the FATF.

The latest controversy began with an audio recording in which a member of the Endurance Front and a conservative former lawmaker, Mahmoud Nabavian, emphatically stated that Iran’s Foreign Ministry had assured Washington that if banking sanctions were lifted Iran would extradite the notorious Soleimani.

On June 1, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi called this allegation “a total fabrication” and “baseless,” adding that these are “imaginary lies, which can endanger national interests and are an insult to the intelligence of millions of Iranians.”

Ghasemi said the FATF is an international financial mechanism that has nothing to do with extraditing individuals.

A day earlier, on May 31, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Nabavian’s allegations “shameful” and said the ministry would lodge a legal complaint against him. Iranian news agencies then published a photo of a recent meeting between Zarif and Soleimani.

A few hours later, Nabavian denied ever mentioning a deal between the Foreign Ministry and the United States, or that cooperation with the FATF could result in possible extraditions. But the audio recording of his remarks confirmed that he said the Iranian Foreign Ministry had promised extraditions.

Iranian conservatives who criticize the FATF say cooperation with this international mechanism can result in an end to assistance to groups like the Lebanese Hezbollah. But a year ago, deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi had declared during FATF negotiations that “Iran will not sacrifice Hezbollah” for anything.