20:26 GMT26 February 2020
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    Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated after Thursday’s downing of a US spy drone that Tehran claims occurred in its airspace. Following the incident, Trump ‘prevented’ a US retaliatory military strike on Iran just 10 minutes before it was set to be carried out.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that an international task force will enhance supervision of Iran-based financial entities over Tehran's alleged money laundering.

    "Today, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) responded to Iran’s willful failure to address its systemic money laundering and terrorist financing deficiencies by requiring increased supervision of Iran-based financial institutions. The Islamic Republic of Iran regularly seeks to use deception and subterfuge to fund its illicit activities, threatening the integrity and security of the international financial system," Pompeo said Friday.

    Pompeo claimed in the statement that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps continues to engage in illegal financing schemes, which include support for US-designated terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

    "The IRGC’s illicit financing schemes are facilitated at the highest levels of Iran’s government", Pompeo stated. "The FATF also reaffirmed its concern with terrorist financing risk emanating from Iran and the threat it poses to the international financial system. Three years after Iran committed to an action plan with the FATF, the majority of its necessary work remains incomplete".

    Pompeo also urged Iran to "ratify the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF standards or face additional measures".

    Earlier in the day, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoed Pompeo's statement that Iran’s financial network will soon face additional sanctions if Tehran does not comply with international guidelines to tackle alleged money laundering, Fox News reported.

    “The FATF responded to Iran’s willful failure to address its systemic money laundering and terrorist financing deficiencies by requiring increased supervisory examination for branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions based in Iran and calling for additional counter-measures to be re-imposed if Iran does not make further progress”, Mnuchin said, cited by Fox News.

    The 30-year old FATF was established in 1989 by the financial ministers of member nations - which include the United States and Russia - to set legal, regulatory and operational standards to combating money laundering, terrorist financing and related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.

    The statements by the senior US officials come amid escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington.

    On Thursday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said that they had downed a US spy drone after the autonomous surveillance vehicle violated Iran’s airspace - an assertion denied by Washington.

    Trump initially said Iran made "a very big mistake," but later told reporters he doubted the downing of the drone was intentional. Some US lawmakers, however, have called for military action against Iran over the incident.

    Trump on Friday said that the US military was ready to strike three targets in Iran in response to the IRGC downing of a US Navy drone, but added that he had called off the attacks at the last minute because they were not a proportionate response and would have killed innocent civilians. 

    In a separate statement, the US president stressed that he was no hurry to respond militarily to the attack, adding that the US military is prepared and noting that current US economic sanctions on Iran are working, particularly as Washington on Thursday night added additional curbs.

    The US has boosted its military presence in the Persian Gulf in what US National Security Adviser John Bolton said was "a clear and unmistakable signal to the Iranian regime that any attack on the interests of the United States or [its] allies will be met with ruthless force".

    Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Tehran encourages the international community to call on the US to end its unlawful and destabilizing measures in the Persian Gulf.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Thursday that Tehran intends to prove that the US is lying in its claim that the drone was downed in international airspace.


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