U.S. adds three companies to sanctions list
The Obama administration added three companies to those sanctioned for dealing with Iran’s energy sector, for the first time targeting a major Chinese Iran trader.
One of them, Zhuhai Zhenrong Company, based in China, is Iran’s largest supplier of refined petroleum, the State Department said in a statement Thursday.
Zhenrong brokered the sale of over $500 million from July 2010 to January 2011, according to the State Department.
Kuo Oil (S) Pte. Ltd. (Kuo), based in Singapore, “provided over $25 million in refined petroleum to Iran between late 2010 and early 2011,” the statement said.
FAL Oil Company Limited (FAL), based in the United Arab Emirates, provided Iran with over $70 million in refined petroleum in late 2010.
The Obama administration has, in recent weeks, intensified the Iran sanctions at its disposal and is contemplating targeting third parties dealing with the Central Bank of Iran, which would effectively cut off much of Iran’s economy from the West.
The United States is leading Western nations that want Iran to make transparent its nuclear weapons program.
Until now, ther Obama administration has resisted targeting Chinese companies, hoping instead to persuade China to help ratchet up Iran’s isolation.
The sanctions target refined petroleum providers because Iran, while a major crude producer, lacks refinement capacities.
Obama administration condemns Iran car bomb
The Obama administration condemned an attack in Tehran that killed a nuclear scientist, and Iran threatened Israel with revenge.
Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, was killed Wednesday when a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist exploded. Roshan reportedly was a supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, in addition to being a professor at Tehran’s technical university.
“We condemn any assassination or attack on an innocent person, and we express our sympathies to the family,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.
Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman, denied any U.S. role. “The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this,” he said. “We strongly condemn all acts of violence, including acts of violence like this.”
Iran blamed Israel for the attack and threatened revenge.
“The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists, and the work of the Zionists,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Tehran’s Deputy Governor Safarali Baratloo as saying. Fars called the explosion a terrorist attack.
Kayhan, a newsmpaper considered a mouthpiece for the theocracy, suggested retaliation.
“We should retaliate against Israel for martyring of our young scientist,” an editorial quoted by the New York Times said.
At least four Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in anonymous attacks since January 2010. Iranian officials have blamed Israel and the United States for the attacks.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said in a statement that the killing was “a heinous act” and that “We will continue our (nuclear) path without any doubt … Our path is irreversible,” Reuters reported.
Israeli media reported Tuesday that Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said in an address to a closed Knesset committee that Iran should expect more “unnatural” events in 2012.
Iran’s top nuclear official said the country was about to start production at its second major uranium enrichment site.
Iran announced last week that it would begin uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility located near the city of Qom.
Obama, Netanyahu talk Iran
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed Iran and Middle East peace in a phone conversation, .
“They reviewed the recent meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman and the President reaffirmed his commitment to the goal of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region,” the White House said in a statement Thursday. “The two leaders also discussed recent Iran-related developments, including the international community’s efforts to hold Iran accountable for its failures to meet its international obligations.”
“The President reiterated his unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, and the President and the Prime Minister promised to stay in touch in the coming weeks on these and other issues of mutual concern,” the statement said.
Obama and Netanyahu have regular contact about issues in the region. The White House rarely issues a statement following the conversations.