WASHINGTON - The United States on Wednesday imposed new sanctions on Iran to choke off its oil income, saying it was necessary to increase the pressure on Tehran over its suspected nuclear weapons program.
Those still permitted to buy Iranian oil will have to retain their payments outside Iran, to block Tehran's access to the funds, the Treasury said.
"So long as Iran continues to fail to address the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program, the US will impose tighter sanctions and intensify the economic pressure against the Iranian regime," said David Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The move on oil revenues comes six months after the US said it would deny access to the US financial system to countries buying Iranian oil, with certain countries given exceptions to wind down their trade. The new rules narrow the exceptions, the Treasury said, and require any country still buying Iranian oil to credit the payment to an account inside their own country.
"In addition to effectively 'locking up' Iranian oil revenue overseas, this provision sharply restricts Iran's use of this revenue for bilateral trade and severely limits Iran's ability to move funds across jurisdictions," the Treasury said in a statement.
The Treasury stressed that the tightening of Iran's access to foreign trade and foreign exchange would not apply to farm commodities or food, and medicine and medical devices
"Humanitarian trade with Iran is neither subject to these sanctions nor to sanctions previously imposed on Iran," the Treasury said. The United States also placed sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the Communications Regulatory Authority, and the Iranian Cyber Police, citing their extensive efforts to censor news and information flows as well as broadcasting forced confessions of political detainees.
"These censorship activities restrict the free flow of information in Iran and punish Iranian citizens who are attempting to exercise freedom of assembly and expression," the Treasury said.
Iran on Wednesday slammed as "hostile" new US sanctions aiming to prevent importers from buying Iranian oil using foreign currencies, saying it will seek to circumvent the measures.
"This is the latest ring in the series of hostile actions against Iran," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said of the new punitive measures. "We are seeking methods to neutralise the new pressure," he said, quoted by Mehr news agency. But he said the sanctions would actually lead to increased trade with countries that import its oil, especially those with which Iran already has regular trade links. "We could double the trade volume with the countries importing our oil... (for example) we export five, 10, or 20 billion dollars worth of oil, and instead we can receive the needed goods," said Mehmanparast.