US sanctions companies from China, Singapore, for Iran ties

Obama and Netanyahu consult on peace process, Tehran’s nuclear program.

US President Barack Obama smile 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
US President Barack Obama smile 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
BOSTON – The US sanctioned three foreign companies doing business with Iran’s energy sector on Thursday.
The move follows additional tough sanctions the White House recently put in place against Iran, in an effort to convince the leadership in Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.
The firms, Zhenrong Company from China, Kuo Oil from Singapore and FAL Oil Company Limited from the United Arab Emirates, will no longer be able to receive US export licenses, US Export Import Bank financing or loans over $10 million from US financial institutions.
The companies were sanctioned under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, a measure that the administration has historically been reluctant to utilize for fear that it would alienate other countries.
“The United States is working with international partners to maintain pressure on the government of Iran to comply with its international nuclear obligations,” the State Department said in a statement detailing the sanctions. “The sanctions announced today are an important step toward that goal, as they target the individual companies that help Iran evade these efforts.”
Japan on Thursday pledged to take concrete action to cut its oil imports from Iran in response to an appeal for support from visiting US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Japan bought 10 percent of its oil from Iran.
“We would like to take action concretely to further reduce in a planned manner,” he said.
But he added: “It would cause immense damage if they were cut to zero.”
On Thursday evening, US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone at length about Iran, as well as about the recent effort by Jordan to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The two men discussed “recent Iran-related developments, including the international community’s efforts to hold Iran accountable for its failures to meet its international obligations,” according to a White House statement. The statement did not specify which developments were addressed.
On Wednesday, another Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated in an attack Tehran blamed on Israel and the US, an accusation to which Washington offered an usually strong denial.
Iran recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and increased enrichment activities despite strong condemnation by the international community, UN sanctions and a reduction of oil imports from Iran by major trading partners.
Obama and Netanyahu reviewed the recent meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman, according to a statement put out by the White House. Next week King Abdullah of Jordan is scheduled to visit Washington.
Obama lauded the Jordanian monarch for his efforts in bringing Israeli and Palestinian officials to the table.

Reuters contributed to this report.