0450 GMT February 18, 2019
Iran’s Parliament on Sunday approved a bill to counter terrorist financing that is seen as vital to salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal with European and Asian partners.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said 143 out of 268 lawmakers voted to join the “Combating the Financing of Terrorism,” or CFT. The bill must be ratified by the Guardian Council, a constitutional authority, to become law.
One of four put forward by the government to meet demands set by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the bill aims to bring Iran’s laws in line with international standards and allows it to join the UN Terrorism Financing Convention.
“The Parliament faces a historic decision ... to act along the interests of the nation and take away any future excuses from the United States [to pressure Iran],” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Parliament before the vote, which was broadcast on national radio.
“Neither I nor the president can guarantee that all problems will go away if we join [the UN convention],” Zarif said.
“But I guarantee that not joining will provide the US with more excuses to increase our problems,” he added.
US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with world powers in May and has vowed to ramp up sanctions.
By joining the CFT, Iran would be required to comply with some rules offered by the FATF. After September 11, the intergovernmental organization increasingly offered ideas on how to combat terror funding.
Zarif said the approval would make it easier for Russia and China — which signed the nuclear accord along with Britain, France and Germany — to continue doing business with Iran as the US restores sanctions.
Iran is currently alone with North Korea on the blacklist of the FATF, which monitors global money laundering and terrorist financing.
Officials hope the approval will help remove the country from investment blacklists as it faces renewed US sanctions. Foreign businesses say legislation that includes FATF guidelines is essential if they are to increase investment.
In June, the Paris-based FATF gave Iran three months to pass laws needed to be removed from the blacklist, which has created problems for the Islamic Republic in accessing global banking. The body said Tehran has until October to complete the reforms or face consequences that could further deter investors from the country.
Conservatives in Iran opposed the bill, arguing it could erode the country’s sovereignty and hamper Iranian financial support for regional resistance movements such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas. Hundreds of students protested the bill outside Parliament on Sunday.
But supporters saw the bill as a positive gesture toward European countries as they try to salvage the nuclear accord.
AFP, AP and Reuters contributed to this story.