Senate to soon move on new Iran sanctions: Reid

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2012 12:13 PM
Senate to soon move on new Iran sanctions: Reid

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate may soon consider a new package of proposed sanctions targeting Iran's oil revenues, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Tuesday.

The sanctions would focus on foreign banks that handle transactions for Iran's national oil and tanker companies, and include a host of measures aimed to close loopholes in existing sanctions.

The sanctions have made it increasingly difficult for Tehran to sell its oil and are aimed at slowing Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran has said is purely for civilian purposes. The West contends the program is for nuclear weapons.

"I have alerted the Republican Leader (Mitch McConnell) that I will soon ask consent to move forward on this measure," Reid said in the Senate on Tuesday.

"These sanctions are a key tool as we work to stop (Iran) from obtaining a nuclear weapon, threatening Israel and ultimately jeopardizing U.S. national security," Reid said.

The new proposed measures would build on efforts by the United States and other Western nations to implement oil and banking sanctions.

The Senate Banking Committee easily passed the new sanctions bill on February 2 and the full House of Representatives passed its version in December.

Since then, several lawmakers have floated additional proposals to penalize underwriters that insure oil and gas trade with Iran, block foreign companies dealing with Iranian energy companies from U.S. financial markets, and ban foreign companies that buy Iranian oil from buying oil from U.S. emergency reserves.

Reid said Democratic senators have agreed to move forward on the bill without offering any amendments, which could speed a vote. But he said Republican senators may insist on amending the bill.

"New changes to the bill at this time will only slow down its passage," he said.

(Editing by Bill Trott)