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Obama: Iran Must Prove It Is a Safe Place to Do Business


President Barack Obama, accompanied by, from left, Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, speaks during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, March 31, 2016.

President Barack Obama said Friday that Tehran has to do more to prove to global firms that Iran is a safe place in which to do business.

At the close of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Obama said Iran so far had followed the letter of the nuclear deal with six world powers, but its "provocative" actions might be scaring businesses off.

"When they launch ballistic missiles with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous," Obama said.

Iranian leaders have complained that they have not yet seen the economic benefits they expected when some sanctions were lifted in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

Obama said U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew would work with the finance ministers from the five other nations that signed the nuclear deal to clarify what financial dealings with Iran are allowed under the agreement.

Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers expressed concern Friday about reports that the Obama administration is considering easing financial restrictions against Iran.

The Associated Press and Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Treasury Department might grant licenses to let offshore banks use U.S. dollars when facilitating transactions between Iran and non-U.S. businesses.

Iran is still barred from access to the U.S. financial system, but wants to deal in dollars instead of weaker currencies.

House speaker expresses concerns

"These reports are deeply concerning, to say the least," House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in a statement. "As Iran continues to undermine the spirit of its nuclear agreement with illicit ballistic missile tests, the Obama administration is going out of its way to help Tehran reopen for business. The president should abandon this idea.''

FILE - House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2016.
FILE - House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 23, 2016.

Some Democrats also expressed concern over the matter. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said, "I do not support granting Iran any new relief without a corresponding concession. We lose leverage otherwise, and Iran receives something for free.''

Iran has expressed frustration because foreign companies that are now allowed to trade with Iran find they cannot do so without involving the U.S. financial system.

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