Washington A U.S. official met secretly with Iranian banking officials and senior government aides who oppose punishing the Islamic nation for not doing enough to stop money laundering and terrorism funding, The Associated Press has learned.
The talks last month in Paris took place despite the Bush administration's near-absolute ban on formal U.S.-Iran contact. They also occurred against the backdrop of Tehran's attempts to avert the imposition of new U.N. sanctions over its suspect nuclear program.
The United States co-chaired the meeting with Italy and was represented by Daniel Glaser, the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, a senior U.S. official said. Representatives of several other nations also attended.
The meeting was part of the Bush administration's attempts to ramp up international pressure on Iran to halt atomic activities that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons. The administration also wants Iran to stop its support for groups the U.S. has designated as terrorist organizations, the official said.
Iran was represented by senior officials from its central bank, known as Bank Markazi, and its government, according to a Middle Eastern diplomat familiar with the session. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe confidential close-door discussions.
The United States and Iran have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the taking of hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Formal contact between the two countries is extremely limited, although meetings have occurred, most recently between the U.S. and Iranian envoys to Iraq on security matters.