Senators seek info on Iran's gasoline suppliers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. senators have asked the Government Accountability Office to update its list of companies that export gasoline to Iran just in case Congress moves to impose sanctions on the suppliers to punish Tehran for its nuclear program.

The Obama administration is considering whether to go after Iran’s gasoline suppliers and Congress is readying legislation to cut off fuel shipments to the country if Tehran does not enter negotiations over its uranium enrichment program.

The United States fears Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons while Tehran says the program is intended to generate electricity.

Senators Jon Kyl and Joseph Lieberman asked the GAO last week to expand its 2007 list of 30 potential foreign investors in Iran’s energy sector “to include any and all entities” that export gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran.

“This information will be of great use to Congress as it considers amending the Iran Sanctions Act to put greater pressure on those entities doing business in Iran,” the lawmakers said in a letter to the GAO.

The senators also asked the agency for a list of all entities involved in the trade of refined petroleum products to Iran, such as those that provide ships that transport the oil products to the country and provide insurance for the shipments.

The lawmakers also want to know what “commercial relationship” the fuel-supplying companies have with the U.S. government.

Pending legislation would bar the U.S. Export-Import Bank from providing loans to foreign companies that supply gasoline to Iran.

Iran is the world’s fourth largest oil producer, but still has to import 40 percent of its gasoline to meet growing demand because of limited refining capacity.

Tehran has threatened to retaliate against a cutoff of its gasoline imports by stopping its crude oil exports to Western countries. Iran could also disrupt oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. About 17 million barrels of oil a day pass through the strait.

Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Lisa Shumaker