Iran Nuclear NewsKey US panel approves new Iran sanctions

Key US panel approves new Iran sanctions

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ImageAFP: Iran's main gasoline suppliers, including British, French, Swiss and Indian firms, may face tough US sanctions under a bill that sailed through a key House of Representatives panel Wednesday. ImageWASHINGTON (AFP) — Iran's main gasoline suppliers, including British, French, Swiss and Indian firms, may face tough US sanctions under a bill that sailed through a key House of Representatives panel Wednesday.

By a voice vote, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved legislation aimed at tightening the economic vise on the Islamic republic over its suspect nuclear program, which the West charges hides an effort to get atomic weapons.

The measure would empower US President Barack Obama to effectively block firms that supply Iran with refined petroleum products, or the ability to import or produce them at home, from doing business in the United States.

Democratic Representative Howard Berman, the panel's chairman, said that the "urgency" of freezing Tehran's nuclear drive outweighed the "distasteful prospect" of inflicting considerable economic pain on the Iranian people.

Berman said he hoped "to maximize the chances that Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism, will be prevented from acquiring the capacity to produce nuclear arms" and warned "we have very little time to lose."

Because of a lack of domestic refining capacity, oil-rich Iran is dependent on gasoline imports to meet about 40 percent of domestic consumption.

Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France's Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and British Petroleum, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.

The new legislation would expand the criteria under which a company could face US economic sanctions under a 1996 law targeting investments over more than 20 million dollars in Iran's oil and gas infrastructure.

The measure would also target firms that help Iran import gasoline, including companies that fund the shipments, shipping firms, or their underwriters.

While the bill enjoys overwhelming support among US lawmakers, it allows Obama to waive the sanctions on national security grounds — something all of his predecessors have done under the 1996 legislation.

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