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Nahas: Free trade with Iran possible

Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas speaks during an interview in his office in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Nov. 4, 2011. (Mahmoud Kheir/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Lebanon and Iran are mulling a free trade area, Economy Minister Nicolas Nahas said Tuesday, welcoming the step as a boost to bilateral trade between the two countries.

“We are currently studying the agreement that would include phasing out customs and fees on imports and exports between the two countries [in the free trade zone],” he said.

Nahas made his statement following a meeting of the Lebanese-Iranian joint economic committee headed by Ali Nikrad, the Iranian minister of roads and transportation.

The Lebanese economy minister said that economic ties between Lebanon and Iran are improving as various cooperation programs and memorandums of understanding would be implemented soon.

Nikrad said Iran is ready to help Lebanon improve infrastructure in the electricity and water sectors.

Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi, who also met Nikrad Tuesday, said the Cabinet would decide soon on an Iranian offer for a $100 million loan to build water dams and electricity plants.

The Iranian minister also urged “increased cooperation in the banking sector in a way that suits the needs of both countries since the promotion of bilateral economic and trade ties is everyone’s goal,” according to the Central News Agency.

Iran’s banking sector is coming under heavy pressure from the West as Europe and the United States tighten economic sanctions on Tehran to curb its nuclear program, which the Islamic Republic says it is developing for peaceful purposes.

Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh reiterated Wednesday that Lebanese financial authorities would comply with Western financial sanctions on both Iran and Syria.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, who started a two-day visit to Lebanon Wednesday, urged Beirut to implement earlier agreements signed by the countries within three months, ministerial sources told The Daily Star Wednesday. The sources said Lebanon does not feel obligated to adhere to any implementation time frame for the agreements. There are 16 outstanding agreements between Lebanon and Iran.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 03, 2012, on page 5.

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