02/24/2018, 15.50
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Tehran wants own digital currency to boost economy and circumvent US sanctions

According to the Minister of Information and Telecommunications, the government has plans to use a cryptocurrency. An Iranian bank is preparing to announce a tender to build such a platform. The United States is ready to hit those who use the new currency.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Iran is preparing to launch its own digital currency in a move that many believe can help reduce the country's vulnerability to US sanctions.

Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Azari Jahromi said a plan to develop a platform for using cryptocurrency in the country was already in the works, local media report.

Jahromi said the project would be led by the Post Bank of Iran, which is already preparing to announce a tender for developing the platform.

The minister also invited all Iranian tech experts to participate in the upcoming tender of Post Bank - a bank which focused on e-banking and the development of Iran's electronic banking infrastructure.

The removal of economic sanctions against Iran in 2016 led to certain openings in the country's commercial activities with other countries. Now however, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is under threat from the current US administration.

What is more, the country has yet to fully benefit from the removal of the sanctions because some restrictions – specifically those that concern banking transactions with Iran – still remain.

The success of cryptocurrencies over the past few months opened a debate among ruling circles in Tehran as to the use of digital currencies to dodge sanctions.

This follows what other countries have done recently, most notably Venezuela, which has also been targeted by the White House.

In addition, certain openings for Iran to use the digital currency in overseas trade had appeared earlier.

Last March, media reports noted the Government of Sweden had reportedly authorised a local business to create a mechanism based on the bitcoin – the world's most popular virtual currency – to transfer funds to Iran.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could be used to send funds to Iran, where they would be converted to the local currency, the rial, and used to invest in publicly traded companies on the Tehran Stock Exchange.

Still, doubts remain vis-à-vis the use of crypto-currencies. The latter could be a way to circumvent international efforts to regulate financial transactions and impose sanctions.

The countries most interested in the technology – Iran, Venezuela and Russia, as well as North Korea according to some sources – are all targeted by US sanctions.

For its part, the US Treasury Department has warned US citizens that purchasing these currencies may violate sanctions laws.

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