US steps up sanctions on Iran over nuclear program
Published Saturday 30/08/2014 (updated) 31/08/2014 14:49
The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant
pictured on Oct. 26, 2010 (Mehr News/AFP/File Majid Asgaripour)
WASHINGTON (AFP) -- The United States imposed new sanctions Friday on networks linked to Iran, stepping up pressure on Tehran that threatened to potentially destabilize ongoing negotiations over its nuclear program.
President Barack Obama's administration emphasized that it was still pursuing a negotiated solution with the Iranian government to resolve the international community's concerns about its nuclear program, despite the new round of sanctions.
The new sanctions expanded the vast web of international sanctions that remain in force despite a temporary narrow lifting of sanctions in exchange for Iran's suspension of some of its nuclear activities.
"Today we took additional steps in our effort to maintain pressure on the government of Iran,"said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council.
"The United States remains committed to working with our P5+1 partners toward a long-term, comprehensive solution that provides confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively peaceful," the NSC spokeswoman said.
The P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Germany, the United States, plus Russia -- extended an interim agreement by four months, to November 24, to allow more time to negotiate a final accord.
Tehran denies that it wants to make nuclear weapons and the sides remain split on how much uranium enrichment Iran should be allowed to carry out.
Critics have also denounced increased US sanctions on the country in recent years for causing widespread economic and humanitarian suffering among the general population, despite their supposedly targeted nature.
The Treasury announced more than 25 sanctions targeting individuals and entities, including shipping and oil companies, banks, and airlines.
Asia Bank, one of the banks targeted, has provided US dollar bank notes to Iran, including a mid-2014 delivery from Moscow to Tehran of more than $13 million, in violation of US sanctions, it said.
Tehran used Iranian government-owned airline Meraj Air and Iran-based Caspian Air to ferry illicit cargo, including weapons, to the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Pouya Air was identified as an alias for an already US sanctioned airline, Yas Air, listed for transporting weapons and other illicit cargo to "Iran's clients in the Levant" -- the region of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan.
Iran's efforts to avoid sanctions on oil sales also were targeted, with designations including Faylaca Petroleum and Nefertiti Shipping.
"Treasury's action against over 25 entities and individuals -- who are involved in expanding Iran's proliferation program, supporting terrorism in the region, and helping Iran evade US and international sanctions -- reflects our continuing determination to take action against anyone, anywhere, who violates our sanctions," said David Cohen, the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The State Department separately announced sanctions targeting weapons of mass destruction proliferators and supporters, and those linked to Iran's energy sector.
Among the targets were Goldentex FZE, a company based in United Arab Emirates, for its support of Iran's energy and shipping sectors, and Italy-based Dettin, for helping Iran evade oil sanctions.
The sanctions freeze any assets in the US and prohibit transactions with US persons.
Treasury, State and other US officials have traveled the world to say that Iran sanctions relief is "narrow and targeted," said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We will ensure that the sanctions that remain in place will be robustly enforced."
Ma'an staff contributed to this report.