US hounds German bank in bid to halt Indo-Iranian oil trade

Frankfurt: German foreign ministry officials are expressing helplessness in accommodating aggressive US demands to prevent a bank in Germany from being used as a payment conduit by India for Iranian oil. Not unexpectedly, Washington claims that money from these payments would help finance Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

India depends on Iran for about 15 per cent of its crude oil imports and needs a facility to make payments. Understandably, Delhi is reluctant to disturb its oil import arrangements, which in this case is a substantial 15 per cent of all its oil imports, to accommodate charges made by nations like the United States of America, which have shown a disturbing tendency in the past to falsify claims against other countries to advance their own geo-political interests. 

The bogus US claims concerning Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Saddam Hussein's Iraq have not been forgotten – claims, it may be recalled, which formed the basis for a UN resolution that facilitated invasion of that country by the United States and allied forces.

German officials argue that they have no legal basis to block payments, made by India to the Hamburg-based Europäisch-Iranische Handelsbank, or EIH. The payments are routed as part of the international payments system through the Bundesbank, the German central bank.

The payments have been going on for a few weeks now after the Indian central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, blocked the Indian government from using the Asian Clearing Union to handle the transactions in response to US pressure. The move by its own central bank left Delhi with no options but to make alternative arrangements to pay for the fuel.

Delhi and Teheran settled on the EIH and the European financial system as the new payment route. The facility, through EIH, has begun to attracted public attention in Germany this week, only after a report in a leading German business newspaper, the Handelsblatt.