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Israel asks America to impose sanctions on Iran

AIPAC spurring Congress to pass sanctions bill against Iran

In the run-up to its annual meeting in Washington later this month, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is urging Congress to pass legislation authorizing new sanctions against Iran.

As Iran appears to move closer to resuming nuclear activities, support has been quietly building in Congress for new U.S. sanctions, including penalties that could affect multinational companies and recipients of U.S. foreign aid.

The legislation would put the United States on a more confrontational course than the one pursued by President George W. Bush's administration. Bush has supported European efforts to offer Iran incentives in exchange for abandoning its nuclear program.

More than 200 members of the House of Representatives - almost half the body - are co-sponsoring a bill that would tighten and codify existing sanctions, bar subsidiaries of U.S. companies from doing business in Iran and cut foreign aid to countries that have businesses investing in Iran.

Additional lawmakers - Republicans and Democrats - are adding their names to the bill every week.

The bill faces big hurdles before becoming law. Support may not be as strong in the Senate, which is considering a more limited version of the bill. Key lawmakers in both chambers could block the legislation. The White House has not taken a position, but generally opposes congressional efforts to steer foreign policy.

"We will have the perennial and traditional battle with the executive branch as to who can have a say on foreign policy initiatives," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the House bill's main sponsor and a member of Bush's Republican Party.

But momentum would likely build if Iran carries out its threat to resume some nuclear activities and its talks break down with Britain, France and Germany, which are negotiating on behalf of the European Union.

The triumverate has warned Iran they will break off talks and join Washington in seeking UN Security Council action if Tehran makes good on its threats to resume atomic work, European Union officials said on Thursday.

The legislation is expected to get a boost when one of the most influential lobbying groups, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, holds its annual meeting in Washington this month. AIPAC has made the bill a high priority.

"It will certainly, along with other things, be part of the agenda when thousands of members of AIPAC go to Capitol Hill" to lobby Congress, said Josh Block, a spokesman for the group.

A pro-business group, the National Foreign Trade Council, is lobbying against the bill, but its president, Bill Reinsch, said "the deck is kind of stacked against us."

"People don't like to have it look like they're voting against something that will stick it to an unpopular country," he said. "So, yeah, we're worried about it."

Washington says Iran's nuclear activities are intended to build a bomb, though Iran says it seeks only to generate electricity. It suspended uranium-enrichment activities in November while it negotiates with the Europeans If the talks fail, the White House would likely look for EU support to take Iran to the UN Security Council, where it could face international sanctions.

FM Shalom: Iran to develop nuclear know-how within 9 months
Iran may develop the know-how to make nuclear weapons in six to nine months, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said on Friday. He called on the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran.

"Iran poses an existential threat, and that's why I think that the entire world understands that it's impossible to give such an extremist regime the possibility of having a nuclear bomb that can essentially threaten the integrity of the world," Shalom said Friday in an interview with Israel Radio.

The day before, Shalom warned that Tehran was close to knowing how to make nuclear weapons.

"Iran's announcement of their decision to renew uranium enrichment is, of course, a very dangerous announcement that must be viewed with appropriate concern," he told foreign diplomats at a reception at the President's Residence on Thursday. "Unfortunately, we see that indeed Iran will do everything to reach nuclear capability. The question is not whether Iran will have a nuclear bomb in 2009 or 2011. The question is when will they have sufficient knowledge [to build one], and we think that this possibility even exists, possibly, in another six to nine months."

Shalom also called on the International Atomic Energy Association to use its June 13 meeting to make a "clear and unequivocal decision" to bring the Iran issue before the United Nations Security Council, which he said "has the sole authority to impose sanctions on Iran."

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon told Army Radio on Thursday that Israel knows how to protect itself against a potential Iranian threat.

"Iran is the central proponent of terrorism and Islamic fanaticism and it has a non-conventional leadership that is liable to develop non-conventional weaponry," Ya'alon said. "Israel, therefore, needs to know how to defend itself against every threat and will always know how to do so."

Earlier Thursday, Rohani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, said Tehran would resume some nuclear activities because it cannot continue nuclear negotiations with Europeans.

"Continuation of negotiations in their present format is not possible for us," Rohani told state-run television, saying the talks were not balanced and were costly for Iran.

"The basic point that the Islamic Republic of Iran will resume part of its nuclear activities in the near future is definite," Rohani had said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair spelled out the potential consequences, telling reporters: "We certainly will support referral to the United Nations Security Council if Iran breaches its obligations and undertakings."

The United States believes Iran's nuclear energy program is a front to develop atomic weapons and has been pressing for Iran's case to be sent to the 15-member UN council for possible economic sanctions and other actions.

The EU shares U.S. suspicions but has offered incentives to try to get Tehran to give up its atomic fuel program, which Iran insists is only for nuclear power plants, not for arms.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier also urged Iran to maintain its voluntary freeze on enrichment-related activities.

"We continue to hope that Iran will not go ahead with this move, for which it is aware of the consequences," Barnier told the French Senate upper house of parliament.

The EU letter proposed "ministerial level talks" between the Iranians and Europeans within the next two weeks to break the impasse and avoid a crisis, EU diplomats said.


Haaretz, "AIPAC spurring Congress to pass sanctions bill against Iran", 14 May 2005.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 15 May 2005.

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Tags: Iran, sanctions, impose, Israel, American, Congress, Israel, lobby, Jews, embargo, blockade, Act of War, , conspiracy theories.

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