World News

Iran blasts World Bank for refusing loans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran on Friday accused the World Bank of “discriminatory behavior” for refusing to authorize new development assistance to the country.

Iran’s Economy Minister Shamseddin Hosseini, in a speech to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund plenary session, said development and humanitarian assistance was not part of U.N. sanctions, imposed by major powers on Iran to curb its nuclear development.

He said the refusal by the global lender since 2005 to consider a new lending strategy, known as the Country Assistance Strategy (CAS), for Iran went against the Bank’s articles of agreement.

He said the World Bank’s actions were depriving a member country of developmental resources.

“The shocking point is that, based on inquiry made from the legal department of the World Bank, the developmental and humanitarian projects are excluded from the imposed sanctions on Iran,” Hosseini said, “in no section of the legal opinion reasons can be found to reduce relations and not financing such new projects.”

U.S. lawmakers have pressured the World Bank led by Robert Zoellick, an American, not to lend to Iran and have threatened to withhold U.S. funding to the poverty-fighting institution if it approves new lending.

According to the World Bank’s website, the global lender has not approved new lending to Iran since 2005. It said that Security Council resolution 1737 (March 2007) on Iran, while calling on member states and global organizations to refrain from making new financing available to Iran, exempts humanitarian and development activities conducted by international financial institutions.

“As we have informed the (Iranian) authorities, because of recent sanctions and uncertainty surrounding individual banks, we are reviewing all our disbursement arrangements,” a World Bank official told Reuters.

Hosseini said in his meetings with the World Bank, officials had cited U.N. sanctions and “negative opinion of some countries” as reasons for not lending to Iran.

“My core question is whether these behavior is based upon good governance or political observations?” Hosseini said.

Citing specific clauses in the Bank’s articles of agreement, Hosseini said the World Bank was “forbidden to have any kind of interference with the political affairs of the member countries nor can be influenced by the political inclination of members countries”.

He said even though the Bank had halted disbursement of already approved loans to Iran, it continued to charge interest and other fees.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Andrea Ricci