Senate approves new sanctions for Iran energy, shipping

Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:23pm EST
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By Roberta Rampton and Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate resoundingly approved on Friday expanded sanctions on global trade with Iran's energy and shipping sectors, its latest effort to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

The new package, which keeps in place exemptions for countries that have made significant cuts to their purchases of Iranian crude oil, would be the third round of sanctions in a year if passed into law.

The existing sanctions have already hurt Iran's economy, but it is uncertain whether the additional measures will stop or slow Iran's nuclear program.

Washington says Tehran is enriching uranium to levels that could be used in nuclear weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.

Senators voted 94-0 to make the new sanctions part of an annual defense policy bill.

"We must be clear to the Iranians that toughing it out and waiting it out is not an option, that it will only get worse," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said.

Menendez, of New Jersey, co-authored the package with Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut.

The measures would also restrict trade with Iran in precious metals, graphite, raw or semi-finished metals, such as aluminum and steel, metallurgical coal and software for integrating industrial processes in Iran's energy and shipping sectors.   Continued...