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‘Ecuador being punished for befriending Iran’

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“This decision has nothing to do with the fight against money laundering, or the fight against the funding of terrorism… It has to do with that we have an embassy in Iran,” Correa said in the highland town of Sangolqui outside Quito on Saturday.

“So because we have misbehaved. They are giving us a smack so we don’t misbehave,” he added, describing the move as a “hypocritical punishment.”

“Instead of revising themselves, they condemn us. There is no money laundering here my friends. There is no terrorism, and no funding of terrorism. Imagine if he had money to fund terrorism, I wish I had money to build all the schools that I want to build,” he said.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, named Ecuador and Iran on a list of states that it says are failing to comply with international regulations against money laundering and financing terrorism.

However, Correa said that Ecuador’s two dozen banks had perfectly adequate legislation to protect against laundering and terrorism financing and dismissed the report as “a huge lie.”

Under Correa’s administration, Ecuador has strengthened diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran, which has opened an embassy in Quito.

In recent years, Iran has looked to increase its cooperation with Latin American states such as Ecuador, to the chagrin of Washington.

Citing a 2009 agreement between Ecuador’s Central Bank and some Iranian financial institutions, Ecuador’s private bank association said on Friday that it believed the Iran factor was behind the country’s inclusion on the FATF list.

Feb. 22, 2010