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US releases $450 million in frozen Iran funds

WASHINGTON, April 18, (Agencies): The United States has authorized the release of a $450 million installment in Iranian assets that were frozen as punishment for Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, the State Department said Thursday.

It came after a new report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog found that Iran was complying with the terms of a November interim deal with world powers calling for a partial freeze to its controversial nuclear drive. “Based on this confirmation and consistent with commitments the United States made under the Joint Plan of Action, the department of Treasury took the necessary steps pursuant to the JPOA to facilitate the release of a $450 million installment of Iran’s frozen funds,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said. Iran has cut its stock of highly enriched uranium by 75 percent, the new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed.

Under the November agreement, Iran pledged to “dilute” half of its highly enriched uranium by mid-April, with the rest to be converted by mid-July. The IAEA report also said that progress on a plant in Tehran that will be used for the conversion of low-enriched uranium had been delayed, but that Iran had said this will not prevent it from fulfilling its part of the deal by the July 20 deadline. Meanwhile, a federal judge has approved plans to sell a 36-story Manhattan office building and other properties owned by Iran nationwide in what will be the largest terrorism-related forfeiture ever, a prosecutor said Thursday.

US Attorney Preet Bharara said Judge Katherine Forrest approved the deal between the US government and 19 holders of more than $5 billion in terrorismrelated judgments against the government of Iran, including claims brought by the estates of victims killed in the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The deal calls for the Manhattan building and other forfeited assets to be sold by the US Marshals Service, with the US government receiving reimbursement for litigation expenses and any costs of the sales before the rest is distributed to victims of terrorist attacks.

The agreement stems from a 2008 lawsuit by the government against the building’s owners. Bharara said the settlement is an important step toward “completing what will be the largest ever terrorism-related forfeiture and providing a substantial recovery for victims of terrorism.”

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