A US Senate panel on Wednesday night approved legislation to toughen US sanctions on Iran in a bid to get it to halt its nuclear program. The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill to increase trade and financial sanctions 19-2, and the House of Representatives passed similar legislation last year. The move would reinforce existing US sanctions by extending the trade ban on goods to and from Iran. For example, it would prohibit the import of Iranian carpets, caviar, and nuts to the US. The bill also would increase financial sanctions on some Iranian individuals, and punish US firms if their subsidiaries do business with Iran.