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Seoul Pays Iran's Delinquent UN Dues   01/23 09:18


   DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Using Iranian bank funds freed from 
American sanctions, South Korea has paid Iran's $18 million in delinquent dues 
owed to the United Nations, Seoul said Sunday. The step was apparently approved 
by Washington to restore Tehran's suspended voting rights at the world body.

   The South Korean Foreign Ministry said Seoul had paid the sum using Iranian 
assets frozen in the country after consulting with the United States Treasury 
-- a potential signal of flexibility amid floundering nuclear negotiations.

   The ministry said it expected Iran's voting rights to be restored 
immediately after their suspension earlier this month for delinquent dues.

   Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a 
request for comment. But Iran state television's English-language arm Press TV 
quoted Iran's permanent representative to the U.N. as confirming that the dues 
had been paid and Iran's voting rights would soon be restored. He did not 
specify how the money had been paid.

   "The Islamic Republic of Iran, as an active member of the United Nations, 
has always been committed to paying its membership dues on time," Majid Takht-e 
Ravanchi said. He expressed outrage at the U.S. for what he called its "brutal 
and unilateral sanctions against Iran" that have prevented Tehran from gaining 
access to funds to pay the arrears for the past two years.

   The funds had been impounded at Korean banks under sanctions imposed by 
former President Donald Trump after he withdrew the U.S. from Tehran's landmark 
nuclear deal with world powers. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of 
Foreign Assets Control must grant a license for these transactions under the 
American banking sanctions imposed on Iran. The Treasury did not immediately 
respond to a request for comment on the unfrozen funds.

   The Biden administration wants to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, which 
granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

   Diplomats are now engaged in delicate negotiations to revive the accord in 
Vienna, although a breakthrough remains elusive as Iran abandons every 
limitation the deal imposed on its nuclear enrichment. The country now enriches 
a small amount of to 60% purity -- a short, technical step away from weapons 
grade levels -- and spins far more advanced centrifuges than allowed.

   Under the United Nations Charter, a nation that owes the previous two full 
years' worth of dues loses its voting rights at the General Assembly.

   A letter from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated earlier this 
month revealed that Iran was among several delinquent countries on that list, 
which also includes Venezuela and Sudan. The General Assembly can make 
exceptions to the rule, determining that some countries face circumstances 
"beyond the control of the member."

   According to the secretary-general's letter, Iran needed to pay a minimum of 
$18.4 million to restore its voting rights.

   Iran also lost its voting rights in January of last year, prompting Tehran 
to lash out at the U.S. for imposing crushing sanctions that froze billions of 
dollars in Iranian funds in banks around the world. Tehran regained voting 
rights last June after making the minimum payment on its dues.

   Iran over the past few years has pressured Seoul to release about $7 billion 
in revenues from oil sales that remain frozen in South Korean banks since the 
Trump administration tightened sanctions on Iran.

   The frozen funds hang in the balance as diplomats struggle to revive the 
nuclear deal. Senior South Korean diplomats including Choi Jong Kun, the first 
vice foreign minister, flew to Vienna this month to discuss the fate of the 
assets with their Iranian counterparts.

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