06/17/2016, 18.29
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Tehran sues the United States in UN court over confiscated assets

The dispute involves Iranian assets frozen by the US, which the US Supreme Court said can be used to compensate US citizens harmed by Iranian-sponsored terrorism in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Tehran rejects the claim, saying that the confiscation violates a 1955 US-Iranian friendship treaty.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran has filed a lawsuit against the United States at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest UN judicial body, over seized Iranian assets.

The US Supreme Court ruled that US$ 2 billion in frozen Iranian assets must be paid to American victims of terror attacks blamed on Tehran.

Iran argues that Iran and Iranian state-owned companies are entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of the US courts.” Hence, the US action constitutes a violation “by the Government of the United States of America of the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights between Iran and the United States of America which was signed in Tehran on 15 August 1955 and entered into force on 16 June 1957”.

The US Supreme Court blocked frozen Iranian assets in April to be paid out to survivors and relatives of those killed in attacks blamed on the Islamic republic. These included the 1983 bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. The decision affects more than 1,000 Americans.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced late Wednesday that "Iran has officially lodged a complaint with the international court and we will pursue our case until we get a result."

"The American courts have illegally decided that these funds must be given to Americans and the families of victims killed in Lebanon," he said, quoted by Iranian media.

"It remains unclear what these Americans were doing in Lebanon, and how this affair concerns Iran."

After years of embargo, Iran obtained a partial easing of Western economic sanctions in exchange for an agreement on its controversial atomic programme. Iranian authorities say it is for civilian purposes, but others, like Israel, believe it designed to build a nuclear bomb.

Despite the agreement, the United States has kept in place a range of sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile programme, as well as over its military support for Shia groups in the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria’s Alawi-controlled government and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

European banks with US branches have been slow to pick up business opportunities in Iran, fearful of US law.

Washington has banned the use of the US dollar with Iran, preventing new deals. This has helped Iran’s right-wing faction, and undermined moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s reform programme.

In Tuesday's filing, Iran rejects the US designation as a major state sponsor of terrorism. For Rouhani, “Iran and Iranian state-owned companies are entitled to immunity from the jurisdiction of the US courts.”  What is more, Tehran wants back the money the Americans “stole”.

The UN court, which recently marked its 70th anniversary, will now have to decide whether it has jurisdiction in the case.

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