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PARIS – An international monitoring agency has given Pakistan four months to prove it is fighting terrorism financing and money laundering — or it could be put on a damaging global blacklist.
The Financial Action Task Force also threatened Iran, which is already blacklisted, with even tougher restrictions on its international financial activity.
Pakistan's government on Friday hailed the FATF's decision, which offers a reprieve to Prime Minister Imran Khan as he works to shore up his country's faltering economy and attract foreign investment and loans.
"Thank God, we have been successful," Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, told The Associated Press.
But the agency's assessment remained grim, expressing "serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan" to stop terrorism financing.
In a statement after meetings this week at its Paris headquarters, the FATF said Pakistan has addressed only five of 27 measures required to avoid being blacklisted.
If Pakistan doesn't act by February, FATF president Xiangmin Lui said the agency could put the country on its blacklist, which currently includes only Iran and North Korea.
Experts say the move means every international financial transaction with Pakistan will be closely scrutinized and doing business in Pakistan will become costly and cumbersome. International agencies could place restrictions on lending money to Pakistan, including key creditors such as the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
"Pakistan has not done enough," Xiangmin told a news conference.
Pakistan should do more to track money transfers and investigate and prosecute terrorism financiers, among other steps, the FATF said.
Qureshi insisted that Pakistan has "taken maximum steps against terror financing."
"We will continue to take all the required steps, and all conspiracies against us have failed," he told The AP.
Meanwhile, the watchdog expressed "disappointment" that Iran isn't taking the necessary steps to be removed from the blacklist, and said it's asking all member countries to tighten scrutiny of any financial transactions involving Iran.
Virtual currencies such as bitcoin and Facebook's Libra are also prompting concern from the FATF, which warned of "new risks" from such products. It said they're being "closely monitored" to ensure they're not used to finance terrorism or launder money.
Taveer reported from Islamabad. Kathy Gannon and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad also contributed.