Senate Passes Iran Sanctions; Bill to White House

Washington, Dec. 15 - The U.S. Senate passed a defense authorization bill Thursday which includes biting sanctions on Iran’s central bank.

At the same time, the Obama administration dropped its initial opposition to the sanctions and is expected to sign the bill soon.

The House of Representatives passed the massive military bill on Wednesday.

The House also passed the Iran Threat Reduction Act (H.R. 1905) and the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Modernization and Reform Act (H.R. 2105). These bills, which would bolster current sanctions, passed by votes of 410-11 and 418-2, but have yet to be passed by the Senate

The Iran sanctions measure, named the Kirk-Menendez amendment for its sponsors Senator Mark Kirk  (R-illinois) and Robert Menendez  (D-NJ) strengthens existing sanctions and penalizes foreign banks for doing business with Iran.

The bill bars foreign financial institutions doing business with Iran's central bank from opening or maintaining correspondent operations in the United States.

Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said, “The Central Bank of Iran is the primary bankroller of Iran's global terror network, its nuclear program and other illicit activities. The time has come to collapse this terrorist and proliferation-financing institution.”

News media reported that the Obama administration, fearing that the measure could lead to higher world oil prices, had sought to water down the bill, but ultimately relented.

The United Nations Security Council has repeatedly called on Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program but the Islamic Republic has pressed ahead, while issuing frequent threats to wipe Israel off the map.

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