US ramps up sanctions against Iran, blacklists petchems

21 November 2011 23:33  [Source: ICIS news]

(recasts, adding dropped word "suspected" in lead and third paragraph)

Obama announces new sanctions against IranWASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US said on Monday that it was broadening sanctions against Iran to pressure the Tehran regime to end its suspected nuclear weapons programme, including a new US boycott of foreign firms doing business with Iranian petrochemicals entities.

Under the sanctions announced by the White House and State Department, non-US firms that do business with the Iranian petrochemicals sector would be subject to unspecified penalties and possibly barred from doing business with the US.

US companies have long been barred from doing business with Iran. Successive US administrations have been steadily broadening sanctions against the Tehran government in an effort to halt its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

The new sanctions announced on Monday come in the wake of findings issued earlier this month by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Tehran was advancing steps to build nuclear weapons.

In a statement from the White House, President Barack Obama said that the US was taking additional steps, in cooperation with Canada and the UK, “to further isolate and penalise Iran for its refusal to live up to its international obligations regarding its nuclear programme”.

“New sanctions target for the first time Iran’s petrochemical sector,” Obama said, “prohibiting the provision of goods, services and technology to this sector.”

Obama said that the US would impose unspecified penalties “against any person or entity that engages in such activity” with the Iranian petrochemicals industry.

The sanctions announced on Monday also expand earlier provisions designed to impede and perhaps cripple Iran’s oil and natural gas sectors.

In addition to taking action against any companies worldwide that do business with Iranian petrochemicals entities, the White House also announced broad new financial restrictions on Tehran.

“Today we have taken the next significant step to escalate the pressure by ... identifying for the first time the entire Iranian banking sector – including the Central Bank of Iran – as a threat to governments or financial institutions that do business with Iranian banks,” Obama said.

This step targeting Tehran’s central bank and all other Iranian banks is seen as a significant escalation that builds on earlier but more narrow financial sanctions.

Those earlier financial prohibitions, the White House said, already have forced Iran “to resort to exotic, expensive and burdensome methods to engage in the most basic of financial transactions”.

“The Iranian government has a clear choice,” Obama said in announcing the new sanctions.

“It can fulfil its international obligations and reap the benefits of greater economic and political integration with countries around the world,” he said, “or it can continue to defy its responsibilities and face even more pressure and isolation.”

Iran has chosen the path of international isolation,” Obama concluded.

($1 = €0.74)

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