U.N. says in principle open to helping in Iran-U.S. assets dispute

By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations on Friday suggested it would be willing to assist in a dispute between Tehran and Washington after Iran requested U.N. help in convincing the United States to stop what the Islamic Republic says are violations of state immunity. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday to ask him to intervene with his "good offices" after the top U.S. court ruled that $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets must be paid to American victims of attacks blamed on Tehran. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed receipt of Zarif's letter. "We'll obviously take a look at it," he told reporters. "As a matter of principle ... the Secretary-General's good offices are always available should both parties to whatever tensions or issue request it." State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was aware of the letter. "To the extent that this letter was prompted by the recent Supreme Court decision in the Bank Markazi v. Peterson case, we believe the U.S. laws and the application of those laws by the courts ... comport with international law," he said. A U.S. official made clear Washington saw no need for U.N. involvement. "We have open lines of communication with Iran and we'll continue to try to address any issues of mutual concern through those channels," the official said on condition of anonymity. Iran has become increasingly frustrated at what Tehran has said is the failure of the United States to keep its promises regarding sanctions relief agreed under an historic nuclear deal struck last year by Iran and six world powers. In the letter, released by the Iranian U.N. mission, Zarif asked Ban to help secure the release of frozen Iranian assets in U.S. banks and persuade Washington to stop interfering with Iran's international commercial and financial transactions. The U.S. Supreme Court found that Congress did not usurp authority of American courts by passing a 2012 law stating that Iran's frozen funds should help satisfy a $2.65 billion judgment won by U.S. families against Iran in federal court in 2007. Last week Zarif met several times with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in New York to discuss Iran's difficulties in accessing international financial markets. Kerry said Washington was not preventing anyone from doing legitimate business with Iran. Tehran has called on the United States to do more to remove obstacles to the financial sector so that businesses feel comfortable investing in Iran without fear of penalties. (Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Toni Reinhold and James Dalgleish)