U.S. Senate panel approves
Reuters North American News
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
U.S. Senate Banking Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday that
would expand trade and economic sanctions in another attempt to prod Iran to
step back from suspected nuclear weapons production and alleged support for
By a vote of 19-2, the
committee sent to the full Senate legislation that would try to clamp down on
countries suspected of helping transport sensitive technologies and goods to Iran in violation of existing U.S. rules.
The measure also encourages U.S. pension plan managers and state and local
governments to divest, directly or indirectly, from Iran's energy sector.
Patterned after a new U.S. law aimed at Sudan, the legislation allows state
and local governments to divest from any company that invests $20 million or
more in Iranian energy or extends $20 million or more in credit to be used for
Under the bill, the Bush
administration also would be encouraged to designate the central bank of Iran as a supporter
of terrorism, triggering sanctions.
The United States and some other countries accuse Iran of seeking
nuclear weapons under cover of an energy program. Washington
also says Tehran supports Shi'ite
militias hostile to U.S.
forces in Iraq
and Islamist militants elsewhere.
Iran denies those charges.
SANCTIONS AND PROGRESS
Senate Banking Committee
Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said the bill could be
coupled with other Iran
sanctions measures also moving through the Senate.
"There is considerable
interest among senators, including our leadership, in moving comprehensive Iran
legislation quickly," Dodd said. Similar bills are moving through the House .
Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who voted against the bill,
said it "does not sanction Iran.
It directly sanctions (U.S.)
allies, friends and others."
Hagel also noted some progress
was being seen on Iran, such
as nuclear talks this weekend in Geneva between Iran,
Britain, France, Germany,
Russia and China. A U.S. envoy will attend,
a major shift in U.S.
There also have been reports
that the United States may
establish a diplomatic interests section in Tehran,
with which it cut diplomatic ties after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when
embassy was seized and hostages taken.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New
York Democrat, said he might pursue an amendment on the Senate floor
encouraging Russia to join
boycott efforts against Iran. In
return, Schumer said, the U.S.
would back off plans to build a defensive missile system in eastern
Europe that displeases Moscow.
The legislation was approved
by the banking panel after Iran
test-fired missiles last week that could be used to strike Israel. On
Tuesday, the Pentagon said Iran
also has the ability to launch a ballistic missile capable of hitting some of
eastern and southern Europe.
The missile tests, nuclear
dispute and hostile rhetoric have fed perceptions, especially in the global
financial markets, of a rising possibility of confrontation between Iran and the United
States or Israel,
that had helped drive oil prices to record highs.