US lawmakers are considering expanding American economic sanctions on Iran - measures that already have helped push that country's currency into free fall but have not yet convinced Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations Committees, said he plans to push for new penalties on foreign banks that handle any significant transactions with the central bank of Iran. Only oil-related transactions are now covered by sanctions.

A senior House of Representatives Democrat, Howard Berman, is working on additional possible sanctions on Iran.

Menendez said he is also looking at ways to freeze an estimated 30 percent of Iran's foreign currency reserves held in banks outside the country. Menendez said he hopes the additional sanctions will become part of an annual defense policy bill that the Senate and House must finalize after the election.

The US Congress is out of session until after the Nov. 6 presidential election, meaning any action on fresh sanctions will have to wait until then.

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