US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke by telephone about Iran and the peace process Thursday, amidst flaring tensions with Tehran and ongoing efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The two leaders reviewed the recent meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman, according to a statement put out by the White House. Next week King Abdullah of Jordan is scheduled to visit Washington.

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The two also discussed "recent Iran-related developments, including the international community's efforts to hold Iran accountable for its failures to meet its international obligations," according to the statement, though it did not specify which developments were addressed.

On Wednesday another Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated in an attack Tehran blamed on Israel and the US, an accusation to which Washington offered an usually strong denial.

Iran has recently threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz and increased enrichment activities despite strong condemnation by the international community, UN sanctions and a reduction of oil imports from Iran by major trading partners.

The US, which has additional tough sanctions in place against Iran, on Thursday designated three foreign companies doing business with Iran's energy sector. The firms, Zhenrong Company of China, Kuo Oil of Singapore and FAL Oil Company Limited of the United Arab Emirates, will no longer be able to receive US export licenses, US Export Import Bank financing and loans over $10 million from US financial institutions.

The companies were sanctioned under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, a measure which the administration has historically been reluctant to utilize for fear that it would alienate other countries.

"The United States is working with international partners to maintain pressure on the government of Iran to comply with its international nuclear obligations," said a State Department statement detailing the sanctions. "The sanctions announced today are an important step toward that goal, as they target the individual companies that help Iran evade these efforts."

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