US slaps toughest sanctions against Iran

The doors of diplomacy are still open for Iranian regime, says US President.

Washington: Even as he signed into law the toughest sanctions against ever passed by the US Congress at the White House, US President Barack Obama said the doors of diplomacy are still open for the regime in Tehran.

Iran Sanctions Act affects the gasoline, financial, insurance and shipping sectors, among others, as it seeks to impose a heavy economic cost on Iran for continuing with its nuclear programme.

The sanctions bar foreign countries from exporting refined petroleum to Iran, as well as restrict access to US financial institutions for any entities that help Iran`s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Also, it prevents investment, transfer of technology and development of Iran`s energy sector, and makes it easier for states and localities to divest from companies that do business with Iran.

The Senate approved the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 on June 24 in a 99-0 vote, and the House of Representatives passed it 408-8 later the same day.

"With these sanctions, along with others, we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government`s ability to fund and develop its nuclear programme. We are showing the
Iranian government that its actions have consequences," Obama said in his remarks.

"And if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen. There should be no doubt - the US and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

At the same time, the US President said the Iranian government still has a choice.

"The door to diplomacy remains open. Iran can prove that its intentions are peaceful. It can meet its obligations under the NPT and achieve the security and prosperity worthy of a great nation," he said.

Consistent with the Security Council mandate, this legislation strengthens existing sanctions, authorises new ones and supports our multilateral diplomatic strategy to address Iran`s nuclear program, he said.

"It makes it harder for the Iranian government to purchase refined petroleum and the goods, services and materials to modernise Iran`s oil and natural gas sector. It makes it harder for the Revolutionary Guards and banks that support Iran`s nuclear programs and terrorism to engage in international finance," Obama said.

"It says to companies seeking procurement contracts with the US government, if you want to do business with us, you first have to certify that you`re not doing prohibited business with Iran," he added.

The President said "even as we increase pressure on the Iranian government, we are sending an unmistakable message that the US stands with the Iranian people as they seek to exercise their universal rights."

The legislation also imposes sanctions on individuals who commit serious human rights abuses. And it exempts from our trade embargo technologies that allow the Iranian people to access information and communicate freely. In Iran and around the world, the United States would continue to stand with those who seek justice and progress and the human rights and dignity of all people, he said.

Obama said since taking office, he made it clear that the US was prepared to begin a new chapter of engagement with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"We offered the Iranian government a clear choice. It could fulfil its international obligations and realise greater security, deeper economic and political integration with the world, and a better future for all Iranians. Or it could continue to flout its responsibilities and face even more pressure and isolation," he said.

"To date, Iran has chosen the path of defiance. That`s why we have steadily built a broader and deeper coalition of nations to pressure the Iranian government. Last month, we joined with our partners at the UN Security Council to pass the toughest and most comprehensive multilateral sanctions that the Iranian government has ever faced," Obama said.

Whiling signing the bill, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the President and the Congress have set forth a new and effective means of applying financial pressure against Iran`s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability and its support for terrorists.

"The law provides Treasury with powerful new authorities to impose mandatory sanctions against foreign banks that knowingly provide financial services related to such conduct by Iran, or to the IRGC and its affiliates. These authorities strengthen Treasury`s ongoing efforts to protect the international financial system from abuse," he said.

Republican Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said to protect American people, these sanctions must be fully implemented and enforced now, before it is too late.

"This bipartisan bill, overwhelmingly passed by Congress, was designed to impose crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime to force it to abandon its illicit nuclear weapons program and other dangerous activities. But its impact depends entirely on its implementation by the President," she said, adding "by targeting Iran`s energy sector, we can strike at the regime`s jugular."