US Senate panel approves
tougher sanctions on Iran
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A
U.S. Senate panel Wednesday approved legislation to strengthen U.S. sanctions on Iran in an effort to get that
country to drop its nuclear program.
The Senate Finance Committee
cleared the bill to expand trade and financial sanctions 19-2, and the House
passed similar legislation last year.
Washington believes Iran harbors ambitions to build an atomic bomb,
says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.
The measure would strengthen
existing U.S. sanctions by
tightening the trade ban on goods to and from Iran. For example, it would no
longer allow the import of Iranian carpets, caviar, and nuts to the United States.
The bill also would expand
financial sanctions on some Iranian individuals, and penalize U.S. companies if their foreign subsidiaries do
business with Iran.
In provisions likely to
displease the White House, both the House and Senate bills also would press Russia to stop helping Iran's nuclear program by barring the United States from entering into a civilian
nuclear agreement with Moscow
until that country suspends such assistance.
While President Bush favors
tougher international sanctions on Iran,
he also wants the civilian nuclear accord with Moscow, and has sent such a pact to Congress.
It will go into force later this year unless both chambers of Congress vote to
Bush, along with many
lawmakers, initially criticized Russia
for delivering nuclear fuel to Iran.
But he has recently taken the
position that such a move shows Russia
can be a dependable supplier so that Iran itself has no need to enrich
The way forward for Iran sanctions
legislation in Congress also is unclear because at least one other proposal is
pending in another Senate committee.
"The strong sanctions
we've approved today will work to deter the Iranian government from producing a
nuclear weapon," said the committee's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana
Democrat who earlier this week recast the measure based on a bill from Oregon
Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.