The US announced sweeping new sanctions against Iran yesterday -- the harshest since the takeover of the US embassy in 1979 -- charging anew that Tehran supports terrorism in the Middle East, exports missiles and is engaging in a nuclear buildup.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, joined at a State Department news conference by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, said the steps the Bush administration is taking against the Revolutionary Guard Corps and a number of banks are designed, among other things, to punish Tehran for its support of terrorist organizations in Iraq and the Middle East.
Rice said the moves were in response to "a comprehensive policy to confront the threatening behavior of the Iranians," although she also said that Washington remains open to "a diplomatic solution."
But Rice quickly added: "Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon, building dangerous ballistic missiles, supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israel off the map."
The announcement culminated a monthslong series of harsh statements from both sides amid public recriminations both within the administration and the Congress over Tehran's strategic intentions.
The US has long labeled Iran a supporter of terrorism and has been working for years to gain support for tougher sanctions from the international community aimed at keeping the country from developing nuclear weapons.
The sanctions will cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, from the US financial system and will likely have ripple effects throughout the international banking community.
Rice said the new sanctions will "provide a powerful deterrent" for companies in the US and abroad, urging them to sever business relationships with Iran.
Paulson said that Iran channels millions of dollars a year to help bankroll terrorist acts.
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