WASHINGTON May 30 The United States was set to
relax sanctions on Iran on Thursday to allow American companies
to sell mobile phones, software and other technology used for
personal communications to Iranians, two U.S. officials said.
The move, expected later on Thursday, will allow Iranians to
get access to the latest Apple phones and newest
software that have only been available on Tehran's black market
since sanctions were first imposed in 1992.
The U.S. has ramped up tough measures against Iran in recent
years to slow development of the Islamic Republic's disputed
nuclear program, blacklisting a wide range of Iranian companies
and government officials.
The United States believes Iran is enriching uranium to
levels that could be used in nuclear weapons, but Tehran says
its program is for peaceful purposes.
The easing of sanctions on technology may be an attempt by
the U.S. government to develop goodwill with Iranian citizens
before the Iranian national elections next month.
Social media played a big role in the wake of Iran's
disputed 2009 presidential elections, used by the opposition
"Green Movement" to marshal global attention to their cause, and
later inspiring protesters in the Arab Spring revolts of 2011.
The U.S. government first eased some technology restrictions
after the election in 2010, allowing U.S. companies to export to
Iran some basic software and free Internet services such as chat
But the move on Thursday goes further, allowing companies to
sell software and hardware to Iranian citizens, Wendy Sherman,
undersecretary for political affairs at the U.S. State
Department, said in an interview on the BBC Persian service late
"We have no desire to cut off communications," she said in
the interview, which first announced the looser rules. "We in
fact want to encourage communications in every way we can."
The English transcript from Sherman's interview was provided
by the National Iranian American Council, a non-profit group
that has long urged the U.S. government to ease restrictions on
Iran that hurt ordinary citizens but do little to hinder the