By Michael Shields
ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss pharmaceutical company has completed the first transaction under a new humanitarian trade channel with Iran, the government in Bern said on Monday.
The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) channel to bring food and medicine to Iran started trial operations in January, helping supply Swiss goods to the struggling population without tripping over U.S. sanctions.
"We would like to emphasise that the operationalisation of the SHTA is progressing and that a number of companies have already been approved, more companies will follow. Further transactions should be carried out shortly," the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said by email.
Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from the sanctions that Washington reimposed on Tehran after President Donald Trump walked away from a 2015 international deal over Iran's nuclear programme.
But the U.S. measures targeting everything from oil sales to shipping and financial activities have deterred several foreign banks from doing business with the Islamic Republic - including humanitarian deals.
SECO did not identify the Swiss drugmaker or give a value for the shipment, which it said involved a cancer drug used to treat iron overload caused by repeated blood transfusions.
The pilot deal in January shipped to Iran cancer drugs and drugs required for organ transplants worth 2.3 million euros ($2.7 million). Geneva-based bank BCP and drugmaker Novartis took part in the pilot deal.
($1 = 0.8540 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond)