U.S. House Committee Approves Tighter Iran Sanctions Bill


iran-nuclear-facilityA bill that would tighten U.S. sanctions against the export of refined petroleum products to Iran has been approved overwhelmingly by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives.

Iran is a major exporter of crude oil but lacks sufficient refining facilities to supply its needs. The sanctions would bar gasoline, kerosene, propane and other refined products. The bill also would extend sanctions from 2011 to 2016.

Four members among the committee’s 28 Democrats and 19 Republicans spoke out against the legislation, which passed by voice vote. The bill still must be voted on by the full House and clear the Senate before becoming law.

The Obama administration has withheld refined petroleum products from current sanctions to avoid harming everyday Iranians.

U.S. sanctions are meant to punish Iran for allegedly trying to develop nuclear arms.

The State Department was noncommittal in its reaction to the committee’s vote.

Spokesman Ian Kelly said the department prefers a multilateral approach to the Iran problem, both through the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations and the P-5-plus-1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

“Right now, I think most of our energies are focused on the engagement side of it to follow up on the P-5-plus-1 meeting in Geneva and waiting for a response from Iran,” Kelly said, “But all along, there’s also the other track, the track of pressure, and we believe that that track has to be at least planned for while we pursue the engagement track.”

Iran told the IAEA on Friday that it would have an answer this week to the suggestion that it ship much of its uranium to Russia for enrichment to levels too low for use in nuclear arms.

Kelly said today he had seen press reports that the response might come Thursday, but the Iranians have said nothing officially.

While expressing preference for a negotiated outcome, Kelly clearly was not dismayed by the new legislation’s start toward enactment.

“We, of course, welcome the advice of Congress and are working with them as they go through their own deliberations on how to go forward in our relations with Iran,” Kelly told reporters.

“We all share the same goal, and that’s getting Iran to be more transparent about its nuclear energy program. And there’s a lot of discussions on how best to get to that,” he said.

{AP/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}