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U.S.: House, Congress Endorse Tougher Sanctions on Iran

House votes for two bills that would strengthen current sanctions on Iran, while Congress backs bill targeting Iran's Central Bank.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/15/2011, 9:15 AM

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday endorsed harsher sanctions on Iran, as part of U.S. attempts to weaken Tehran economically and derail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The Associated Press reported that House lawmakers voted for two bills that would strengthen current sanctions, while expanding the list of companies and individuals subject to penalties.

The legislation builds on sanctions that Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed last year. The sanctions targeted exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran and banned U.S. banks from doing business with foreign banks providing services to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

“Our fundamental strategic objective must be to stop Iran before it obtains nuclear weapons capabilities and to compel it to permanently dismantle its pursuit of such weapons,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was quoted by AP as having said.

Among the new provisions, the House bills would restrict foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from doing business with Iran. Bartering is included among the activities that could be sanctioned and Americans would be prohibited from conducting commercial or financial transactions with the Revolutionary Guard, AP reported.

One provision would strengthen the prohibition on granting landing rights in the United States to vessels that have visited Iran, North Korea or Syria in the last two years, the report added.

Meanwhile, Congress was poised to back a defense bill that would target foreign financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank in Tehran, AP said.

The legislation requires the president to prohibit or impose strict conditions on that financial institution and its ability to maintain corresponding accounts in the United States.