WASHINGTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Iran resumed payments on oldloans to the World Bank, the bank said on Friday, just as thecountry held the highest level conversation with the UnitedStates in more than three decades.
The poverty-fighting World Bank, which did not provide areason for the resumption of payments, announced in July thatIran had not made any payments for more than half a year, apossible sign of the strain on the sanctions-hit Iranianeconomy.
At the time, Iran denied that it had failed to make paymentson its loans, which now total $616 million, and blamed Westernsanctions for preventing an intermediary from forwarding fundsto the global lender.
All of the payments are for old loans, as Iran has not had aWorld Bank program since 2005. The Washington-based World Banksaid it is in compliance with all U.N. and internationalsanctions against Iran.
It was not immediately clear why Iran had stopped makingpayments in July, according to the World Bank, and why itresumed them on Friday. World Bank spokesman David Theis had nofurther comment.
The World Bank announcement came just as U.S. PresidentBarack Obama and new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held ahistoric phone call, a sign that the estranged nations areserious about reaching an agreement on Tehran's nuclear program.
Obama said this was a unique opportunity to make progresswith Iran over an issue that has isolated it from the West.
The United States and its allies have imposed hard-hittingsanctions against Iran's oil and banking sectors to choke offfunding of a nuclear program which the West says is a drive toachieve a weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program isentirely for peaceful purposes.
Rouhani, who was in New York for the U.N. General Assemblythis week, urged an end to sanctions crippling Iran's economyand repeatedly stressed Iran's desire for normal relations withWestern nations, while denying the country wanted a nucleararsenal.
During the visit to New York, Rouhani also met with the headof the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde to discusshis government's economic policies and a way to deepen relationswith the international institution.
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