US imposes sanctions on Iran

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The Independent US

The Bush administration is imposing sweeping new sanctions against Iran's defense ministry, its Revolutionary Guard Corps and a number of banks to punish them for purported support for terrorist organizations in Iraq and the Middle East, missile sales and nuclear activities, US officials said Thursday.

The measures, to be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, will cover some of the Iranian government's largest military and financial institutions, which Washington blames for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, Shia insurgent groups in Iraq, along with the Hamas and Hezbollah organizations, they said.

Iran's defense ministry and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are to be designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology while several banks will be hit with sanctions for "proiliferation financing," the officials told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity before the formal announcement.

The Quds force and banks will be identified as "specially designated global terrorist" groups for their activities and financing of militant groups in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, the officials said.

In all, more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guards will be covered by the sanctions, they said.

The sanctions will be the toughest the United States has levied against Tehran since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy there.

Rice told a House committee Wednesday that the administration shares Congress' goal of making sanctions tougher on Iran. She also declared that activities in Iraq by the Quds Force "are inconsistent with the Iranian government's obligations and stated commitment to support the Iraqi government."

"We have decided to take this measure because we believe Iran is continuing its proliferaction activities and its terrorism activities and certainly on the the nuclear (issue) it is continuing activities. We also want these actions to contribute to to a diplomatic solution to this problem," said one official.

The two officials said they hoped the measures would ratchet up pressure on Iran to negotiate.

The United States has long labeled Iran as a state supporter of terrorism and has been working for years to gain support for tougher sanctions from the international community aimed at keeping the country from developing nuclear weapons.

The sanctions would be unilateral, however, and are believed to be the first of their type taken by the United States specifically against the armed forces of another government.

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