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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

US House overwhelmingly passes sanctions on Russia and Iran

The measure turns existing sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine and alleged meddling in the 2016 US election into law

The move largely rebukes the Trump administration's efforts to improve relations with Moscow
The move largely rebukes the Trump administration's efforts to improve relations with Moscow

The US House of Representatives passed a sweeping sanctions bill targeting Iran, Russia and North Korea in a move that largely rebukes the Trump administration's efforts to improve relations with Moscow.

The measure, which passed by a margin of 419 votes to three, turns existing sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine and alleged meddling in the 2016 US election into law.

It also imposes new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its Revolutionary Guard network, and goes after North Korea’s shipping industry as well as its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

"This is a strong, bipartisan bill that will increase the United States' economic and political leverage," said House foreign affairs committee chairman Ed Royce who sponsored the bill.

The speaker of the House Paul Ryan dubbed it “one of the most expansive sanctions packages in history”, and added: “It tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe."

On Iran, the bill would target any financial entities that deal with those on US sanctions lists and have a role in the country’s ballistic missile programme.

For many Democrats and Russia hawks in Congress, the bill was a slap to the Trump administration’s efforts to ease sanctions on Moscow.

The bill, if it becomes law, would force Mr Trump to get approval from Congress before making any significant changes to the Russia sanctions. Such changes would be contingent on Congress accepting or rejecting them in a period of 30 days.

“The House vote on this tough sanctions bill sends a message to President Putin that meddling in US elections will not be tolerated,” senator Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, said after the vote.

The bill passed by the House is amended from a Senate version approved last month.

The earlier version prohibits US companies from participating in any projects with Russian energy companies. In contrast the new version makes that restriction only to projects “where sanctioned Russian entities have at least a 33 per cent interest”, according to Bloomberg.

The White House reacted cautiously to the bill that would tie Mr Trump hands on Russia. “While the president supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President’s desk,” his spokesperson Sarah Sanders said.

For the bill to become law, it would require to be passed again by the Senate and then signed by Mr Trump. If the US president vetoes the bill, Congress members have threatened to override this veto given the vast bipartisan majority behind the measure.