WASHINGTON: The US Congress on Wednesday approved tough new sanctions targeting Iran's energy and shipbuilding sectors, a day after President Barack Obama unveiled his own measures aimed at crippling Tehran's nuclear drive.
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly for the measure, which House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen described as the toughest sanctions yet imposed on the Islamic republic over its refusal to rein in its nuclear program.
The new rules -- which target any person or company which works with Iran's petroleum or natural gas sector, provides insurance to the National Iranian Oil Company, engages with uranium mining with Iran, or sells oil tankers to the country -- passed the Senate by a unanimous consent vote.
"This bipartisan, bicameral agreement seeks to tighten the chokehold on the regime beyond anything that has been done before," Ros-Lehtinen told the House.
She said the sanctions effectively put Iran's energy sector "off limits, and it blacklists any related unauthorized dealings," ultimately "depriving Iran of hard currency and funds needed to sustain its nuclear program."
The legislation is a reconciliation of a bill passed by the House in December and one passed by the Senate in May, and lawmakers wanted to move on the bill this week before going into their August recess.
The legislation beefs up sanctions passed by Congress last year which imposed penalties on foreign financial institutions that do business with the Central Bank of Iran or other Iranian finance firms, essentially barring Iran's business partners from the lucrative US market.