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IRAN

Austrian bank signs deal to boost exports to Iran

Austria's Oberbank on Thursday signed a credit deal with Tehran to boost exports to Iran, the first European lender to do so since sanctions were eased following a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.

Austrian bank signs deal to boost exports to Iran
Oberbank headquarters in Linz. Photo: Christian Wirth

Austria's Oberbank on Thursday signed a credit deal with Tehran to boost exports to Iran, the first European lender to do so since sanctions were eased following a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.

Oberbank said the framework agreement will finance Austrian investment projects in Iran's infrastructure, healthcare and plant construction sectors.

“We are proud to be the first European bank to have reached this framework agreement after a year and a half of intense negotiations,” Franz Gasselsberger, the director general of the regional bank in Upper Austria, said in a statement.

The deal was “highly anticipated by Austrian exporters”, he said.

“Our clients have numerous projects in the pipeline, which can now be implemented.”

According to Iran's central bank, the contract is worth one billion euro ($1.2 billion) and will benefit 14 Iranian banks.

“The Austrian bank's resources will be allocated to finance authorised state and private infrastructure and production projects,” the Tehran-based central bank said in a statement published on its website.

Oberbank, which continued to maintain relations with Iran even while international sanctions were in place, said it was “prepared” in case the US pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal — something US President Donald Trump has threatened to do.

Under the deal signed between Tehran and six world powers, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the relief of crippling economic sanctions.

But Trump has called the pact negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama “worst deal in history”, and threatened to pull out if Iran does not face greater controls on its missile and nuclear programs.

Many European banks have remained wary of penalties from Washington for resuming business with Iran.

Oberbank increased its net profit by 8.9 percent to 181 million euros in 2016, with total assets worth 19.16 billion.

It owns a 26-percent stake in the Italian UniCredit bank.

FLIGHTS

Lufthansa, Austrian airlines cancel all Iran flights

Lufthansa is was cancelling all flights to and from Tehran until January 20, following indications that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane earlier this week.

Lufthansa, Austrian airlines cancel all Iran flights
Image: Picture Alliance

The German group, which also owns Austrian Airlines, said on Friday the flight ban was “due to the unclear security situation for the airspace around Tehran airport”. 

All 176 people on board died when the Ukrainian International Airlines plane went down near Tehran on Wednesday, shortly after Iran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq over the killing of a top Iranian general.

American, British and Canadian officials say intelligence sources indicate Iran shot down the plane, perhaps unintentionally, but this has been denied by Tehran.

Several airlines had already announced they would avoid Iranian and Iraqi airspace as tensions in the region soared.

A Lufthansa flight between Frankfurt and Tehran on Thursday turned back an hour after takeoff because of security concerns.

Austrian Airlines meanwhile said late Thursday that its flight to Tehran that day was ordered to return to Vienna after a stopover in Sofia.

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