AFP: US lawmakers on Tuesday launch a debate aimed at tightening existing sanctions against Iran and slapping new bans on the Islamic republic if it refuses to rein in its suspect nuclear program. WASHINGTON (AFP) — US lawmakers on Tuesday launch a debate aimed at tightening existing sanctions against Iran and slapping new bans on the Islamic republic if it refuses to rein in its suspect nuclear program.
"I intend to introduce legislation that will arm the administration with the ability to impose tough, targeted sanctions if Iran does not respond to our final diplomatic effort in the coming weeks," the chairman of the Senate banking committee, Christopher Dodd, said in a statement.
"Congress must equip President Obama with a full range of tools to deal with the threats posed by Iran," he added.
Tuesday's committee hearing will also be attended by US Treasury pointman Stuart Levy, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, to discuss practical ways of implementing new sanctions.
Dodd's proposed bill aims to impose new sanctions on companies exporting refined petroleum products to Tehran, and impose a broad ban on direct imports out of Iran to the United States excepting for food and medicines.
It would also expand existing legislation to cover financial institutions and businesses and extend sanctions to oil and gas pipelines, as well as boost moves to freeze the assets of Iranians accused of weapons proliferation.
The draft legislation would also seek to tighten export controls to halt the illegal export of sensitive technology.
Lawmakers on Sunday vowed quick action against Iran following a report that weapons experts believe Tehran has the know-how to build an atomic bomb.
"The Iranians will have a nuclear weapon if something doesn't change their minds. We need tough sanctions. We need to do them now," Democratic Senator Evan Bayh told "Fox News Sunday."
"But the problem is, in order for sanctions to be effective, you've got to get the Russians and the Chinese on board. That may take a little time."
Pressure has built in Congress for new sanctions since it was revealed almost two weeks ago that Tehran has been building a second uranium enrichment plant deep in mountains close to the holy city of Qom.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a leading congressional voice on defense and security matters, said Sunday he would like Congress to set aside a week dedicated to the raft of new sanctions.
"Let's have Iran week in the Senate and get something done," he said, proposing to discuss a series of measures "that would empower the president and our country to be tough and to put actions behind words."
On Thursday the House of Representatives adopted a text aimed at sanctioning foreign companies which sell fuel to Iran as part of the 2010 draft energy budget.
Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are to meet again on October 19 for more discussions on Tehran's nuclear program after talks last week in Geneva, the first in 15 months.