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Cablegate: Embassy Manama

VZCZCXRO5113
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHMK #0028 0171546
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171546Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7538
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEATRS/TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000028

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PASS TO ISN/CPI, T, EEB/ESC/TFS, NEA/ARP, NEA/IR, S/CT
TREASURY FOR KHECHT AND U/S LEVEY
CAIRO FOR CSEVERENS
ABU DHABI FOR MEPSTEIN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/17/2018
TAGS: PREL PTER EFIN ECON IR BA

REF: 07 MANAMA 803

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli, reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1.(U) A Reuters news article carrying the headline "Biggest Bahrain Bank Freezes Iran Business" announced January 16 that Ahli United Bank (AUB), Bahrain's largest lender, had suspended business with Iran. The story received expanded coverage in the local press. The front page headline of leading English-language daily the Bahrain Tribune proclaimed, "AUB Freezes Iran Transaction - Washington's Pressure to Isolate Tehran Seems to Be Working."

2.(C) However, Post notes that these press items report nothing that has not already been true of AUB's policy vis--vis Iran since the latter part of 2007. In an August 8, 2007 meeting with Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey and the Charge, AUB CEO Adel El-Labban said AUB had made the decision to allow its existing Iranian holdings to mature and run out (reftel). AUB had also closed an account it had held for Bank Melli. El-Labban added that while Bank Saderat and Bank Melli have repeatedly asked AUB to open accounts on their behalf, his answer has always been "no". Moreover, AUB had already advised Future Bank not to open its anticipated branch in Iran's Kish Island Free Zone.

3.(C) El-Labban told Econoff January 17 that there had been no developments that should have triggered so much press attention at this time. "We have already decided to let our Iranian business run out, we have placed our Future Bank shares in a blind trust, and surrendered our seats on the Future Bank board to Central Bank-appointed directors. There isn't much more we can do." El-Labban noted that the key source for the Reuters piece, Bahraini parliamentarian Jasim Ali, is a member of leading Shia oppositionist block Al-Wifaq. "I suspect that the target of the story is not Ahli United, but the Bahraini government." He speculated that the Al-Wifaq source aimed to paint the GOB as weak and prone to foreign influence. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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