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U.S. hits hard at Iran's energy sector

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Increasing pressure on Iran's energy sector is a way to coerce the regime in Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, a U.S. Senate banking committee said.

The Senate Banking Committee backed a sanctions and accountability act that places further restrictions on Iran's ability to generate income through oil and natural gas sales.

The banking committee said the measure would extend sanctions to companies engaged in energy-related ventures "anywhere in the world" where Iran's government is a major investor.

"With these new sanctions we are giving Iran's leaders a clear choice," committee Chairman Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said in a statement. "Iran can end its suppression of its own people, come clean on its nuclear program, suspend enrichment and stop supporting terrorist activities around the globe."

The European Union in January placed an embargo on Iranian crude oil as punishment for Iran's alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Iran maintains its intentions are peaceful, noting the EU effort was for naught as only 20 percent of its oil exports head to European consumers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Friday that the West would pay the consequences for targeting the energy sector.

"The U.S. and others must be aware that we have threats in the face of threats and oil embargo that will be carried out when deemed necessary," he was quoted by the Tehran Times as saying.