Iran General NewsSenate panel votes new Iran constraints

Senate panel votes new Iran constraints

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Reuters: The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to require Pentagon contractors to certify that they are not doing any banned business with Iran.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate Armed Services Committee voted to require Pentagon contractors to certify that they are not doing any banned business with Iran.

The panel, in its version of a defense spending bill for fiscal 2011, also ordered a semi-annual government report on commercial activity in Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors.

The legislation continues a push in Congress to tighten U.S. sanctions against Iran over its nuclear work, suspected by the West of being aimed at bomb-making. Iran says its goal is electricity.

The panel voted to require companies to certify for all Defense Department contracts valued above $1 million “that they are not engaging in any activity for which sanctions may be imposed under the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996.”

Under the law, the government must impose sanctions on foreign firms investing more than $20 million a year in Iran’s energy sector. No foreign firms have yet been penalized, although many have sharply cut their operations in Iran.

The committee said the semi-annual report also should cover “entities that have aided the Iranian government’s efforts to filter the use of the internet, disrupt cell phone communications, monitor online activities, and jam the signals of U.S. and other international broadcasts into Iran,” a summary of the legislation said.

U.S. lawmakers have held off on final passage of new sanctions to punish Iran for its nuclear program until at least late June. The idea is to give the United Nations time to impose multilateral sanctions, key lawmakers said this week.

At issue are congressional proposals to tighten sanctions on both Tehran and companies worldwide that do business with Iran.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed separate sanctions bills months ago and negotiators are working to merge them into a bill to send to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Last month, the House urged them to finish the job by the end of May.

But the Democratic co-chairs of the negotiating committee, Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Howard Berman, said on Tuesday they would wait to see whether the Security Council passed a new draft sanctions resolution agreed on by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

(Reporting by Jim Wolf, additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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