U.S. makes it easier to sell medical supplies to Iran

TEHRAN, July. 27 (MNA) – The United States on Thursday expanded the list of medical devices that can be exported to Iran without special permission, Reuters reported.

The United States and its European allies have tightened their economic sanctions on Iran to pressure the government to scale back its nuclear program, which the West claims may be aimed at developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes such as generating electricity and making medical isotopes.

Iran’s election of centrist cleric Hassan Rohani, last month has raised some hopes for a resolution of the long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear intentions. 

U.S. officials have claimed they have tried to sanction Iran without unduly harming ordinary Iranians, granting licenses, for example, to U.S. companies that want to export pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, and other humanitarian goods to Iran.

But acknowledging the difficulties some companies still face, the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday expanded the list of items that are permitted for export without a special application, adding devices like electrocardiograph and dialysis machines.

David Cohen, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the wider list should allow these medical supplies to get to Iranians more quickly.

“Safeguarding humanitarian trade is an important element of our policy (towards Iran),” Cohen said. “We will continue to apply powerful pressure on Iran while taking steps to ensure that we do not impact the humanitarian needs of the Iranian population.” 

Sanctions lawyers have said the blacklisting of Iran’s major banks has made it extremely difficult to find smaller Iranian banks able to conduct licensed transactions for humanitarian goods, as well as international banks willing to deal with them.

Exports of U.S. pharmaceuticals to Iran were cut in half last year compared to 2011, a sign sanctions could be taking their toll on Iranians’ access to basic medical supplies.

Government hospitals and pharmacies in Iran late last year also reported a widespread lack of drugs to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis, blood disorders and other serious conditions.

Cohen said the U.S. Treasury Department has met with many pharmaceutical and medical supply companies to explain how to work around sanctions.

Also on Thursday, the Treasury issued new guidelines clarifying that foreign financial institutions may process transactions for humanitarian goods without running afoul of U.S. law.

“We expect that today’s actions… will ease lingering concern about the export to Iran of medicine and medical equipment,” Cohen said.

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