Sunday, May 28, 2006

U.S. eyes global sanctions on Iran leaders -report

The United States is pushing Europe and Japan to use broad sanctions to financially pressure Iran's leadership if diplomacy fails to resolve an international dispute over Iran's nuclear activities, the Washington Post reported in its Monday editions.

The newspaper said the plan would target every Iranian official the Bush administration sees as linked to nuclear enrichment as well as terrorism, government corruption, suppression of religious or democratic freedom and violence in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

It would restrict the Tehran government's access to foreign currency and global markets, shut its overseas accounts and freeze assets held in Europe and Asia, the newspaper reported, citing internal government memos and interviews with three U.S. officials. READ MORE

The plan was developed by a Treasury Department task force that reports directly to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Washington Post said.

Consideration of global economic sanctions follows decades of unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran.

The United Nations is demanding that Iran halt enrichment activities that the West says are a cover for developing weapons. Iran says it only wants to make fuel for nuclear power.

Internal U.S. assessments suggest sanctions would not impact Iran without hurting some U.S. allies, the Washington Post said.

According to the report, U.S. officials hope the allies will carry out the punitive measures if Iran refuses a package of incentives the Europeans are preparing to offer soon.

Separately, The New York Times reported that Iran appeared to have slowed it's efforts to produce nuclear fuel, according to European diplomats who had reviewed reports from inspectors inside the country.

The newspaper quoted the diplomats as saying the slowdown (in uranium enrichment) could be an effort by Iran to cool tensions in the nuclear standoff with the West and possibly for Washington to begin direct talks with Tehran.

"The pace is more diplomatic than technical," a senior European diplomat who monitors the Iranian program was quoted as saying.. "They could probably have gone faster. But they don't want to provoke."

But the Times said Bush administration hard-liners believed any slowdown in enrichment might just be a tactical ploy by the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.