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US official visits SE Asia seeking support for Iran sanctions

U.S. Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea speaks during an interview with Kyodo News in Singapore, on Aug. 14, 2018. (Kyodo)

SINGAPORE (Kyodo) -- A senior U.S. official is currently touring Southeast Asian capitals to seek their enforcement of newly re-imposed sanctions on Iran.

"We certainly would urge them to take note of the sanctions," U.S. Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea told Kyodo News on Tuesday during a two-day stopover in Singapore.

"It's not to say that we are dictating to any country what they must or must not do, but we are making very, very clear that companies need to make an informed business decision because if they elect to do business with the Iranian regime in these proscribed areas, then they will not do business with the U.S. or the U.S. financial system."

"We anticipate broad cooperation and strong support for what we are doing."

Billingslea had previously visited Indonesia and Malaysia, and will also be going to the Philippines and Thailand. He is leading a delegation that includes officials from the U.S. Treasury and Department of State.

Asked about Iran becoming closer to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations by acceding to its Treaty of Amity and Cooperation recently, Billingslea urged countries in the region to exercise "extreme caution in dealing with the Iranians."

The visit to Singapore, a major Asian financial center, was for the purpose of working "with the banks here and to work with the financial sector in the entire region to understand exactly how the Iranians operate and what to be on the lookout for," Billingslea said.

"We are here to discuss how the Iranians operate, the way that they try to conceal the true ownership of companies."

Yet regarding Singapore being a global oil refining center, Billingslea said "we actually don't have specific requests for the government of Singapore on Iranian oil."

"We have the highest confidence in Singapore and the fact of the matter is that there hasn't been any significant trade with the Iranians in the oil and gas sector for this entire year anyway."

But other sources told Kyodo News that the United States might be trying to get Singapore to prohibit any Iran oil transactions or shipments.

The sources said the United States might also be lobbying Southeast Asian governments not to attend the Asian Cooperation Dialogue Summit in Iran in October.

Billingslea said that issue was not discussed.

But preventing terrorist financing was, especially any activity involving ISIS.

"They have lost 99 percent of their so-called Caliphate, which means that they have also lost almost all of the revenue that they were generating from oil and from extortion of the local populations in Syria and Iraq. But that by no means indicates that as a terror group, they are fully and completely finished," Billingslea said.

ISIS maintained surrogate operations in the Philippines that had tendrils that reach throughout Southeast Asia, he added.

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