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New US sanctions target Iran's refined petroleum imports for first time

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The measures announced Tuesday by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg target seven foreign entities selling products such as gasoline to Iran.

“All of these companies have engaged in activities related to the supply of refined petroleum products to Iran, including the direct supply of gasoline,” Deputy Secretary Steinberg said.

Other firms cited, in some cases joint ventures with Iranian companies, were from the United Arab Emirates, Monaco, Singapore, and Jersey, a British crown dependency off the coast of France.

Efforts to weaken Iran's economy

The new measures suggest a shift toward efforts to weaken the Iranian economy as a means of pressuring Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program. The US and other Western powers accuse Iran of pursuing its nuclear program, including enrichment, with the goal of developing a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its objectives are purely peaceful and aimed at developing civilian nuclear power.

Iran is a major producer of oil, but is weak on petroleum refinery capacity and must import about 40 percent of its gasoline.

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