December 4, 2012 / 5:00 PM / 7 years ago

U.S. says in talks with Turkey over Iran gas-for-gold

WASHINGTON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - U.S. diplomats are in talks with Ankara over the flow of gold from Turkey in exchange for Iranian natural gas, the State Department said on Tuesday.

“We continue to consult closely with Turkey and all other countries on the scope of U.S. sanctions against Iran, and will pursue any evidence of potentially sanctionable transactions,” a State Department spokesman said.

Turkey relies on natural gas from Iran and has been paying for it using Turkish lira, and Tehran has used the lira to buy Turkish gold. Couriers carry the gold to Dubai and it is then shipped to Iran.

On Monday, Turkey’s energy minister said purchases of Iran’s natural gas is not covered by U.S. sanctions - which means Tehran will continue to supply and get paid by its biggest gas customer.

Over the summer, U.S. President Barack Obama issued an order that allows Washington to place sanctions on countries that provide precious metals to Iran, in attempt to close loopholes on the sanctions that target the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Washington believes Iran is making uranium that could be used in weapons. Tehran says the program is for civilian purposes.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a measure that aims to slow the flow of gold from Turkey into Iran. If passed into law, it would be the third round of sanctions on Iran in a year.

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