WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of US senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to block Iran's access to billions of dollars worth of foreign currency reserves, the latest step by Congress to try to slow the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program.
Lawmakers in Washington say the government in Tehran taps the reserves held in banks around the world, mostly in euros, to get around US and EU sanctions on oil sales that have damaged Iran's economy.
Iran converts the reserves, estimated to be worth $60 billion to $100 billion, into local currencies in order to finance imports and stabilize its budget, the lawmakers say.
The United States and the European Union believe that Iran is enriching uranium to levels that could be used in nuclear weapons. Tehran says the program is intended for producing power and medical supplies.
If passed, the bill introduced by Senators Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, and three others, would block such currency conversions of the reserves and be retroactive to May 9.