Reuters: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Tuesday he hopes the chamber can take up legislation within the next few weeks that would authorize sanctions on companies that provide gasoline to Iran. WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Tuesday he hopes the chamber can take up legislation within the next few weeks that would authorize sanctions on companies that provide gasoline to Iran.
"The act will create new pressure on the Iranian regime to help stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," he said on the Senate floor.
"I am reaching out to Republican colleagues to help me find a path to get that done in the next few weeks," he said.
Reid said he had discussed the measure, sponsored by fellow Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, with the chamber's Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and "we're committed to finding a time to do this."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation in December authorizing President Barack Obama to impose sanctions on companies that directly provide gasoline to Iran, along with companies that provide insurance and tankers to facilitate fuel shipments.
In December, Reid made a commitment to bring up a similar Senate bill early in the new year. The two chambers will ultimately have to approve the same version before the measure can become law.
Iran lacks the refining capacity to meet its domestic gasoline needs and has to import up to 40 percent of its gasoline requirements to meet high domestic demand.
The United States and major European Union countries say Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of its civilian atomic program. Tehran denies this and says its nuclear activities are purely civilian.
Iran's failure to meet a U.S. deadline of December 31 to accept a plan, brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, to send abroad most of its enriched uranium has prompted the United States and five other world powers to start considering possible tougher sanctions against Tehran.
In Congress, many lawmakers in both parties are anxious to hand Obama more options for pressuring Iran to drop its nuclear work.
But it is not clear how keen the Obama administration is to use a broad-based option such as sanctioning the gasoline shipments. This could affect companies based in countries that are U.S. allies as well as destabilize Iran's economy, penalizing members of its protest movement along with the Iranian leadership.
Obama administration officials said last month they were looking at more targeted sanctions.
Tehran has been building stocks of gasoline as the threat of stricter sanctions grows.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)