US to Sanction Iran’s Petrochemical Industry

Posted November 21st, 2011 at 9:00 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. media say the Obama administration will announce new sanctions against Iran later Monday in response to international concerns that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons.

Reports quote unnamed U.S. officials as saying the U.S. State Department will impose sanctions on goods and services used by Iran's petrochemical industry to discourage foreign companies from investing in it. Iranian petrochemical companies have become increasingly involved in refining gasoline as other Iranian energy firms face international sanctions.

U.S. officials say the Treasury Department also will designate Iran as a territory of “primary money laundering concern.” They say the designation will serve as a warning to foreign governments and businesses to scale back their relations with Iranian financial institutions. U.S. companies and individuals already are barred from doing business with Iran.

The officials also say the State and Treasury Departments will expand the number of Iranian companies and organizations facing sanctions for suspected involvement in the Iranian nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report earlier this month citing intelligence about Iranian efforts to develop the technology needed to build nuclear weapons. Iran has said the report is based on fabrications and insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Since the release of the report, U.S. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to impose tighter sanctions, including penalties against the Iranian central bank.

U.S. officials say President Barack Obama is reluctant to take that step because it could block the oil-producing nation's access to international commerce and export markets, leading to a potential rise in oil prices that could hurt global economic growth.

In Vienna on Monday, the IAEA held a two-day meeting on creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Iran, however, is boycotting the meeting.