The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved sanctions legislation aimed at forcing Iran to freeze its nuclear programme by depriving the Islamic republic of gasoline. The measure would empower US President Barack Obama to effectively block firms that supply Iran with refined petroleum products, or the ability to import or produce them at home, from doing business in the United States.
Yesterday the House passed the bill, which has yet to clear the Senate, by a 412-12 margin with four voting present. Because of a lack of domestic refining capacity, oil-rich Iran is dependent on gasoline imports to meet about 40 per cent of domestic consumption. Iran gets most of its gasoline imports from the Swiss firm Vitol, the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura, France's Total, the Swiss firm Glencore and BP, as well as the Indian firm Reliance.
The US state department has also said it would examine claims made in The Times of London that Iran is working on a trigger for a nuclear bomb. The state department spokesman Philip Crowley said: "There's been a public report about an issue related to ... Iran's nuclear programme. It's safe to say the United States government will be investigating those reports." Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for civilian purposes and rejects Western suspicions that it is covertly trying to develop a bomb.
In Tehran, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast dismissed the Times claim as a "scenario" hatched by Western powers. * AFP