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Bush signs US sanctions bill targeting Iran's partners
US President George W. Bush signed into law a new set of sanctions targeting foreign countries that continue nuclear cooperation with Iran and sell it advanced weaponry.
"I applaud Congress for demonstrating its bipartisan commitment to confronting the Iranian regime's repressive and destabilizing activities by passing the Iran Freedom Support Act," Bush said in a statement.
Mindful of the situation in Iraq, lawmakers warned that nothing in this document should be "construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran."
Although it does not name any countries, the measure is seen as a clear warning to Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council that have resisted calls for new international sanctions against Tehran in response to its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
Russia is involved in an 800-million-dollar project to help Iran build a nuclear power plant in Bushehr and sells it modern weaponry. China has been accused of supplying the Islamic republic with advanced missile technology.
"Enactment of this legislation ensures that ILSA (the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act) will continue to impede Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," said US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
"This act also provides important new authority for the administration to block financial transactions related to Iran's weapons of mass destruction programs and encourages the administration to use all available leverage over Russia to gain Russian support for multilateral sanctions against Iran," Frist said in a statement.
In a separate statement, Senator Norm Coleman said: "For the sake of our national security, the US must ensure that the sensitive nuclear technology that we share with partner countries does not fall into the hands of the Iranians.
"The Iranians have demonstrated that they are deceitful, obstructionist and bent on destroying Israel and all of Western civilization. We know where this path is going to lead. Aiding Iran to become a nuclear power, even inadvertently, is unacceptable," he said.
The new sanctions, passed earlier Saturday by the Senate after clearing the House of Representatives a day earlier, came as the European Union engaged Iran in delicate negotiations designed to persuade the Islamic republic to halt its enrichment work and avoid a major international showdown.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to confer with EU foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana and her counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia over the weekend to take stock of progress reached in these talks.
Following the carrot-and-stick approach adopted by Washington, the Iran Freedom Support Act states that it should be the policy of the United States "not to bring into force an agreement for cooperation with the government of any country that is assisting the nuclear program of Iran or transferring advanced conventional weapons or missiles."
The measure calls for this policy to remain in effect until Iran has suspended all enrichment-related activities and committed to verifiably and permanently refrain from such nuclear work in the future, or until the targeted country has severed ties with its Iranian partners.
Under the measure, the US government may also award grants to pro-democracy radio and television stations that broadcast into Iran.
"We have to increase our capability to mine resources and intelligence about Iran," Rice told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Saturday. "And one of the challenges is that we haven't been in the country for 26 years."
The White House said in a separate statement that Bush signed into law House bill 6198 "Iran Freedom Support Act."