The US Treasury's top sanctions official said on Thursday the UAE should take a "very close look" at Iranian banks in the UAE and prevent its banking system from abuse.
"There are issues that the UAE is grappling with. They also need to do due diligence and be extremely careful not to have their financial system abused," Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told reporters during a visit to ask UAE officials to help apply pressure on Iran.
"That means taking a very close look at the Iranian banks operating here," he added, in an apparent reference to Bank Melli and Bank Saderat.
Levey is touring Middle East financial centres - UAE, Bahrain and Qatar - to build support for a US campaign to raise international pressure on Iran and combat terrorist financing.
The Treasury has frozen the US assets and prohibited American transactions with several Iranian state banks and other companies it accuses of aiding Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and of providing financial support to terrorist groups.
Among banks blacklisted are Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank, Bank Mellat, Bank Sepah and Bank Saderat.
The sanctions also have had the effect of persuading many international financial institutions to shun transactions with Iranian banks. Levey wants to persuade more institutions in Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE to do the same as Iran seeks alternative outlets.
"Iran has been looking to other places to try to replace those relationships. One of those places is certainly here in the UAE," he said, adding the UAE central bank was concerned about the situation.
Banks in the UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, have stopped issuing letters of credit to Iranian companies, bankers say, while Bahrain is pressing its biggest lender to freeze the Iranian operations of an affiliate. (Reuters)