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US slaps fresh sanctions on Iran’s Guards

Targets construction arm of Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Published:

The United States targeted Iran's Revolutionary Guard as it fired Wednesday the first salvo in what it hopes will be a new international campaign of sanctions against Tehran for its suspect nuclear work.

A day after President Barack Obama pressed for a "significant regime of sanctions" against Iran, the Treasury Department ordered a freeze on assets of an individual and four companies linked to the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The action, which extends earlier sanctions against the Guards and its Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, bans U.S. transactions with the newly designated firms and aims to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Treasury said Khatam al-Anbiya is involved in the construction of streets, highways, tunnels, pipelines and water projects and its profits help support Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs as well as terrorist activities.

The latest Treasury action represents an incremental step that builds on previous efforts to target specific firms that support Iran's nuclear development and missile technology.

Guards in sight

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month that the United States had the Revolutionary Guard in its sights when discussing sanctions against Iran with its partners: Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

The six powers are leading the effort to curb Iran's uranium enrichment program, which the West fears masks a drive to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies the charge, saying it is for peaceful use of energy.

Obama's tough words, combined with the Treasury action, come after Iran announced on Tuesday it has begun work to enrich uranium to 20 percent, which it says is for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

The move suggested Iran was spurning a four-month-old proposal by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ship most of its stocks of 3.5-percent enriched uranium abroad to be further upgraded to fuel the reactor.

Experts say that once Iran enriches uranium to 20 percent, it can proceed to the 93 percent needed to produce nuclear weapons since the technology is the same. Iran maintains the enrichment is purely for civilian energy purposes.

"Despite the posturing that the nuclear power is only for civilian use... they in fact continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization, and that is not acceptable to the international community," Obama said.

After trying to engage Iranian leaders and persuade them to accept the IAEA deal to defuse the crisis, Obama said the world must be prepared to pressure Iran to change course, even if the "door is still open" to negotiations.

The world community "has bent over backwards" to accommodate Iran and yet is still ready to accept the Islamic Republic as a member of "good standing," he said.

"What we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole," Obama said.

What we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole

US President Barack Obama

Patience wearing thin

In Moscow, the powerful head of Russia's national security council, Nikolai Patrushev, said Tehran's announcement that it had started work to produce 20 percent enriched uranium cast doubt on its claims not to be pursuing weapons.

Patrushev indicated the Kremlin's patience in trying to seek dialogue with Tehran was wearing thin.

"Political and diplomatic methods are important for regulating, but everything has its limit," Patrushev was quoted as saying by Russian state news agencies.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the United States would propose an alternative to allow Tehran to import the medical isotopes it says it needs for cancer patients. Iran dismissed the offer on Wednesday.

Crowley also told reporters Tuesday that the United States sought ways to punish the regime for its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program without hurting the Iranian people.

Political and diplomatic methods are important for regulating, but everything has its limit

Nikolai Patrushev