Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and Ahmadinejad 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
WASHINGTON - US lawmakers said on Monday they were seeking to stiffen sanctions on Iran to pressure it to give up its nuclear program and stop alleged abuses of human rights.
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US Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Howard Berman, the top Republican and Democratic members of the US House of Representatives' foreign affairs committee, have introduced new sanctions legislation.
The two lawmakers and others in Congress worry that Iran is circumventing sanctions approved by Congress last year as part of an international effort to press Iran into talks over its nuclear development.
Iran says its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy needs,
but Western governments suspect it is aimed at making an atomic weapon.
The US sanctions approved last year targeted Iran's energy and banking
sectors, threatening to penalize foreign companies that did business
Only two companies have been sanctioned: Belarusneft, from Belarus, and
Naftiran Intertrade Co, a Swiss-based subsidiary of the National Iranian
The new legislation would seek to close loopholes in existing law by,
among other things, making it harder for the US president to waive
sanctions, Ros-Lehtinen's office said.
"US policy toward Iran has offered a lot of bark but not enough bite," Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said in the statement.
The bill would also impose additional sanctions on companies that did
energy business with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is
increasingly involved in all sectors of Iran's economy, Berman's office
And it would target alleged human rights abusers in Iran by freezing
their assets in the United States, denying them entry to the United
States, and forbidding them to conduct business dealings with the United
States, Berman's office said.
The United Nations said in March that Iran has increased executions and abuse of human rights and opposition activists.
"As we await vigorous enforcement by the Obama administration ... we
must continually look ahead and examine additional means to pressure
Iran," Berman, a Democrat, said.
The Obama administration says it is enforcing existing sanctions law but
has also emphasized that some companies have abandoned Iranian links
voluntarily to avoid US sanctions.
Last September, the State Department said four international energy
companies -- Total, Statoil, ENI and Royal Dutch Shell had agreed to
curtail their energy dealings with Iran.