Geithner to talk regulations, Iran on Mideast, Europe tour

WASHINGTON - US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner leaves Washington late on Sunday for four days of talks in Europe and the Middle East expected to focus on financial regulations, Iran and terror financing.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 12 Jul 2009, 11:24 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:35 AM

Geithner is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia, France and Britain, three of the countries participating in September’s Group of 20 summit, which the United States is hosting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Existing sanctions and other efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions following disputed presidential elections in June that saw hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad return to power will also be on the Treasury chief’s agenda for the trip.

On both the European and Middle East legs of his tour, Geithner is expected to reassure his interlocutors that the United States is committed to pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear program, which the West suspects is an attempt to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charges.

Geithner, who will also visit the United Arab Emirates, will travel first to London for talks with his British counterpart Alistair Darling and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In France and Britain, Geithner will discuss measures implemented on either side of the Atlantic to promote growth and reform financial regulation in the wake of the global economic crisis.

Geithner is expected to meet with his French counterpart Christine Lagarde and Prime Minister Francois Fillon on his final stop of the trip in Paris on Thursday.

A Treasury official cast the visits as an opportunity to assess the situation “mid-point between two big G20 leaders meetings,” referring to the summit held in London in April and the one scheduled for September 24-25 in Pittsburgh.

The G20 is made up of the Group of Eight industrialized nations — Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Russia — plus the European Union and the world’s major developing economies.

The Treasury chief’s visit comes as his agency has significantly revised downwards its plans to buy bad bank assets, a program that was announced before the London G20 summit and was well-received in Europe.

“Frankly I’m a little concerned that they want to come up with a separate approach,” Geithner said of Europe during congressional testimony Friday on the regulation of derivatives.

At this week’s meeting in Italy, the G8 criticized Iran for cracking down on protesters following its controversial presidential election, and handed Tehran a September deadline to make progress on negotiations over its nuclear program or face tougher sanctions.

Treasury officials warned that Geithner would not press for new sanction against Iran, and would tout the “dual track policy” of President Barack Obama’s administration that involves a willingness to engage but also to apply pressure.

During talks Tuesday with Saudi King Abdullah in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, Geithner is expected to discuss US concerns with the world’s biggest oil supplier about the stability of crude prices, which have fluctuated significantly in recent months.

But a Treasury official who briefed reporters on the trip said oil prices would only be one issue in talks with the Saudis before Geithner heads to Abu Dhabi for meetings Wednesday with the heads of two of the emirate’s main public investment funds.

In both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two major holders of US Treasury bonds, Geither is expected to reassure investors that the United States will work overtime to reduce its massive budget deficit.

“He will reiterate that we are open to foreign investment from the region,” the Treasury official said, adding that Geithner will also seek to explain new regulations affecting sovereign wealth funds investing in the United States.

The visit also aims to reinforce cooperation in the fight against terror financing, including in Saudi Arabia, where another Treasury official praised the kingdom’s “significant progress” on beating back such funding, and in the Emirates, a major financial hub.

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