WASHINGTON - The Obama administration, still grappling with how to punish a nuclear-ambitious Iran, is focusing on making countries cut their purchases of Iranian oil, rather than allowing them to avoid US sanctions simply by winning price cuts.
The White House intends to play it tough on implementing new Iran sanctions, and officials say they will not waive them on national-security grounds.
Since US President Barack Obama signed the Iranian sanctions package late last year, the administration has been struggling with how to implement the rules in a way that will not drive oil prices higher and hurt the fragile US economy in an election year.
The administration is mindful that Congress could seek new legislation to close loopholes on sanctions if lawmakers do not see broad cooperation on punishing Iran for what the United States says is a program to develop a nuclear-weapon capability. Iran maintains its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.