U.S. lawmakers seek to further isolate Iran with sanctions

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:30pm EST

Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili gestures before talks in Almaty February 26, 2013. REUTERS/Ilyas Omarov/Pool

Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili gestures before talks in Almaty February 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ilyas Omarov/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers will introduce a bill on Wednesday that expands economic penalties against Iran and is designed to force countries like China to buy less Iranian crude oil, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.

The bill is the latest attempt by members of the U.S. Congress to stop the Iranian government from enriching uranium to a level that could be used in weapons. It comes as Iran and six major powers meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to discuss Tehran's nuclear program.

The legislation by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Republican Ed Royce of California and the panel's top Democrat Eliot Engel of New York builds on existing U.S. sanctions that have so far led to the devaluation of Iran's currency and slashed the country's main source of funding - oil revenues.

The bill would give U.S. President Barack Obama additional authorities to impose financial penalties on foreign companies and entities that provide Iran with goods that are critical to its economy.

The legislation would also make it harder for Iran to get the resources needed to develop its nuclear program, by cutting off Tehran's access to hard currencies such as the euro.

Under the legislation, pressure would be applied on European authorities to stop the Iranian government from using the European Central Bank's payment system to circumvent U.S. and European sanctions.

"The bill tightens the screws on Iran by several more turns," said one person familiar with the legislation.

OIL PURCHASES

Current U.S. sanctions have already forced China, India, Japan and Iran's other major oil buyers to reduce their purchases from the Islamic government.

The U.S. sanctions and a EU embargo on Iranian oil have curbed Iran's oil exports and cost Iran up to $5 billion a month, according to U.S. officials.

But lawmakers want tougher enforcement and oversight of the law that allows the Obama administration to give countries a waiver from U.S. sanctions if they reduce their consumption of Iranian oil.

The House bill would close what lawmakers deem as loopholes in the law and force countries to reduce their Iranian oil purchases over a shorter time period. As well, the legislation would prohibit countries from purchasing Iranian oil from third parties.

On Tuesday, it was unclear whether the bill would advance in Congress. But typically, bills that bolster sanctions against Iran enjoy robust bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (8)
rgbviews wrote:
OK the US is a lost cause, with so many lawmakers under the influence of AIPAC. But the US bullying of other countries to change their trade practices is simply going to backfire, with the new world powers telling the US to “back off” and developing new alliances that leave the US out in the cold.

Feb 27, 2013 5:12am EST  --  Report as abuse
fyus wrote:
Do it, Us, as this is almost your last chance. In 10 years, the balance between the two sides of the Pacific Ocean will be fundamentally shifted. No too far.

Feb 27, 2013 10:41am EST  --  Report as abuse
Omeer wrote:
you may brink the God with you, it is not going to change any thing unless you vacate the Arab lands and return the Jerusalem to its original owners

Feb 27, 2013 10:48am EST  --  Report as abuse
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