CORRECTED-Azerbaijan looks to new Islamic bank as sector rules progress

Azerbaijan could see the launch of its first standalone Islamic bank as early as next year as the government makes progress to introduce legislation to facilitate interest-free finance, Behnam Gurbanzada, an advisor to the new venture said. Azerbaijan, alongside Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, are among several central Asian countries creating a more welcoming framework for sharia-compliant banking with the help of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank. A working group of cabinet ministers and the IDB is making progress on the legislation, which would allow the proposed Islamic bank to launch next year, said the independent Islamic finance consultant. The proposed Islamic bank would be able to launch operations as soon as the legislation is passed, said Gurbanzada.