WASHINGTON - A US congressional committee approved tougher sanctions on
Iran on Wednesday, hitting out at Tehran's central bank following an
alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
bipartisan legislation has good prospects for clearing the House of
Representatives in the near future. In the Senate, lawmakers in both
parties are working on similar legislation, increasing the likelihood
that some version will become law.
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"I hope we can ... have these bills on the
president's desk in time to hand the Iranian regime a nice holiday
present," said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican
chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a sponsor of the
The legislation requires the US president to impose
sanctions on Iran's central bank if he determines it is facilitating
terrorism or the development of nuclear weapons, or supporting Iran's
elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"I believe the central bank of Iran is not only engaging in those
activities; I believe it is the ultimate engine of those activities,"
said the author of the central bank provision, Representative Howard
Berman, a Democrat.
The sanctions would effectively block from the US economy any foreign
bank involved in significant transactions with Iran's central bank. The
legislation was approved by the House panel on a voice vote.
It would extend and tighten existing US sanctions on Iran's energy and
banking sectors that were approved by Congress last year as part of
Washington's efforts to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The British government said on Wednesday that it
is keeping its options open in relation to military action against
"We want a negotiated solution - but all options should be kept on the table," a Foreign Office spokesperson said on Wednesday.
British government believes that the dual track strategy of pressure
and engagement is the best approach to address the threat from Iran's
nuclear program and avoid regional conflict."