Cablegate: Response to Request for Press Guidance From
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHC #9417 0802059
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 202054Z MAR 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO IMMEDIATE 3100
INFO IRAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS STATE 029417
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KNNP IR PREL PARM XD XO CE
SUBJECT: RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR PRESS GUIDANCE FROM
EMBASSY COLOMBO ON BLOCKAGE OF OVERFLIGHT PAYMENTS
REF: A. A) COLOMBO 000281
B. B) STATE 148605
1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraph 3.
2. (U) On March 19, 2008, Embassy Colombo requested
approval to use proposed press guidance points (REFTEL A) if
asked about Citibank's blockage of overflight funds paid by
Sri Lanka Airlines to Iran using Bank Melli. Washington
requests that Post use the press guidance included below when
discussing this issue.
3. (U) Washington requests that Post use the following
press guidance when discussing Citibank's blocking of
overflight payments. Post may also draw from information in
REFTEL B, which includes a fact sheet on the E.O. 13382
designation of Bank Melli (the fact sheet is also available
Question: Why did Citibank block a transaction by Sri Lankan
Airlines to pay the government of Iran for routine overflight
fees? Why did Citibank seize/freeze/impound Sri Lankan
Airlines' funds, rather than simply rejecting the transaction
and returning the funds?
Answer: We defer all Citibank specific questions to Citibank.
Generally speaking, however, U.S. banks are required to
comply with U.S. sanctions against Bank Melli of Iran by
blocking transactions such as this one. On October 25, 2007,
the U.S. designated Bank Melli under Executive Order 13382
(REFTEL B), which is aimed at proliferators of weapons of
mass destruction and their supporters. Executive Order 13382
requires U.S. persons, including financial institutions, to
block all property of sanctioned parties like Bank Melli
ofac/legal/eo/whwmdeo.pdf). This means that a transaction
destined for Bank Melli must be blocked, unless licensed by
the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury.
In addition, UN Security Council Resolution 1803, which was
adopted on March 3, 2008, also calls upon States to exercise
vigilance over the activities of financial institutions in
their territories with all banks domiciled in Iran,
especially Bank Melli, Bank Saderat, and their branches and
subsidiaries abroad, in order to avoid activities that might
contribute to proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities.
Bank Melli provides banking services to entities involved in
Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including
entities listed by the U.N. for their involvement in those
Question: Was this action taken because of U.S. disapproval
of Sri Lanka's economic ties with Iran?
Answer: Any transaction initiating from any company in any
country in the world would be similarly blocked if it were
conducted through a U.S. bank.
5. (U) Should the Mission receive inquiries on this issue
and need to use the above guidance, please report any results
(media and Sri Lankan government reaction, etc.) by cable.
Please slug replies for ISN, IO, T, TREASURY, SCA and NEA/IR.
Please include SIPDIS in all replies.
POINT OF CONTACT
6. (U) Washington point of contact for follow-up
information is Kevin McGeehan, ISN/CPI, (202) 647-5408,
7. (U) Department thanks Post for its assistance.