AFP: US Democratic presidential hope Barack Obama polished his national security credentials on Wednesday, introducing a Senate bill encouraging investors to cash out of projects which benefit Iran. WASHINGTON, May 16, 2007 (AFP) – US Democratic presidential hope Barack Obama polished his national security credentials on Wednesday, introducing a Senate bill encouraging investors to cash out of projects which benefit Iran.
Obama, who most national polls have in second place in the Democratic field behind Hillary Clinton, targeted Iran’s lucrative oil and gas industry in a bill spurred by the US belief the Islamic Republic is building nuclear arms.
The measure, also introduced in the House of Representatives by lawmakers Barney Frank and Tom Lantos, would help investors and state and local governments divest from instruments which benefit Iran.
“The Iranian government uses the billions of dollars it earns from its oil and gas industry to build its nuclear program and to fund terrorist groups that export its militaristic and radical ideology to Iraq and throughout the Middle East,” Obama said in a statement.
“Pressuring companies to cut their financial ties with Iran is critical to ensuring that sanctions have their intended result.
“All Americans can play a role in pressuring companies to cut their ties with the Iranian regime, a state sponsor of terror that is a threat to our allies in the region and international security, as a means of convincing Iran to fundamentally change its policies.”
Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, said the move would help the United States put the “squeeze on Iran.”
“It encourages companies and individuals to remove their money from any investment that might support Tehran’s heedless quest for nuclear weapons.”
Iran denies US claims that it is producing nuclear weapons, but maintains its right to develop nuclear power.
If the move becomes law, it would require the US government to list every six months, companies which have an investment of more than 20 million dollars in Iran’s energy sector.
Supporters say it would offer a powerful disincentive for foreign firms to engage with Iran.
US officials said Wednesday that they would continue to press for sanctions against Iran, despite the apparent failure of existing measures to halt Tehran’s nuclear drive.
International weapons inspectors on Tuesday confirmed Iran appeared to be making steady progress toward its goal of building 3,000 centrifuges, which could allow it to process enough nuclear material to build one atomic bomb per year.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in March imposing sanctions against Iran’s missile and nuclear programs after it repeatedly ignored ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment.
The world body gave Iran 60 days to suspend enrichment or face further punitive measures, meaning that the latest deadline will expire next week.