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Settlement on Britain, Iran arms deal nearing: ministry

Britain could soon conclude a 30-year wrangle with Iran over payment for tanks and other military equipment sold in the 1970s, the Ministry of Defence in London said Sunday.

The shah of Iran’s regime signed deals between 1971 and 1976 with Britain for it to supply Tehran with hundreds of tanks and repair vehicles.

Iran paid for the equipment up front but the deal foundered after the Islamic revolution in 1979 with only a fraction of the equipment having been delivered.

Subsequently, the two countries locked into a lengthy court battle in the Netherlands as Britain tried to hang on to the money, the Independent newspaper reported.

It added that a settlement will be finalised within weeks and Britain is set to release about 390 million pounds (450 million euros, 600 million dollars) to Iran.

But a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told AFP it was “optimistic” to think a deal would be concluded that quickly and said it could take months. She added that the final sum had also yet to be concluded.

Britain paid money, thought to be around 486 million pounds, into a liability fund in 2002 but it will not be released until there is a settlement.

Even then, though, Iran will not be able to access the money because of sanctions against it. “The money will be taken away from us but it will be effectively frozen,” the MoD spokeswoman said.