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Rouhani's 'Good News' May Refer To Finalization Of FATF Laws

FATF Plenary Plenary session in Paris

Two members of Iran's Chamber of Commerce have said that the "good news" Rouhani on Wednesday said should be expected "if approved" by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is a hint at the possible approval of the bills that allow Iran to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

"There are rumors that the economic breakthrough that the President hinted may be [the final] ratification of FATF [-related laws] and the release of blocked currency reserves in foreign banks," Hossein Selahvarzi, Deputy Chairman of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a tweet on Friday.

In a cabinet meeting on Wednesday Rouhani said important decisions had been made in the latest meeting of the heads of the three branches of government which would be announced "after the approval of the Supreme Leader" and bring about an "economic breakthrough".

Selahvarzi added in a sarcastic tone: "Even full acceptance of FATF doesn't automatically cancel Iran's inclusion in the [organization's] blacklist. But can we call it a breakthrough when we undo a knot by teeth when it could have been undone by hand?"

Selahvarzi was the second official of the Chamber of Commerce that has speculated about the possible approval of the FATF laws. Immediately after Rouhani made his remarks, Ali Shariati, another member of the Chamber, had said the same thing.

The Communications Deputy of Rouhani's office, Alireza Moezi, however, in a tweet on Monday refuted any connection between Rouhani's "good news" and FATF laws.

Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf who is a member of the Heads of Government Powers Council on August 6 also said "good news" were to be expected but attributed them to "the approval of economic plans in the past few weeks".

Some Iranian media have interpreted the "good news" in connection with the stock exchange market and said it may refer to more shares of government-owned companies becoming available on the stock exchange market.

Whether the "good news" is related to the FATF or not, being on the organization's blacklist is currently causing serious issues for Iran's international banking and consequently its trade.

Being black-listed has stopped all of Iran's international banking relations and most of its trade forcing businesses into limited transactions with higher costs.

On August 1 the Chairman of the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce said being black-listed by FATF has even stopped banking relations with countries such as Russia and China, Iran's closest allies.

FATF, a multilateral organization overseeing compliance with anti-money laundering and transparency banking rules and regulations, asked Iran in 2017 to adopt legislation in support of financial transparency and against money-laundering and financing of terrorism. Iran's parliament passed a series of laws, but a constitutional body tasked with approving legislation refused to endorse two particular laws.

The organization penalized Iran on February 21, by authorizing member states to take up strict counter-measures against Tehran for not passing appropriate financial safeguarding laws.

Iran's economy is already under severe pressure by U.S. economic sanctions, which have stopped its oil exports and most other trade relations. On Friday Vice President and Head of the Planning Budget Organization Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht said in the first four months of the current fiscal year (started March 21) only 6 percent of predicted revenues from the sale of oil have materialized.

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.