U.S. sanctions against Iran expanded Wednesday to hit more than three dozen additional companies and individuals with penalties meant to curb Iran's nuclear and missile programs.
In announcing the move, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the new U.S. penalties were aimed at those helping Iran develop its nuclear and missile programs and evade international sanctions.
The new penalties are the first step taken by Washington to build on an Iran sanctions resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council last week. In addition to imposing U.N. penalties, the resolution urged individual countries and blocs of nations to examine and expand their own sanctions regimes against Iranian individuals and organizations.
"In the coming weeks we will continue to increase the financial pressure on Iran," Geithner said. "We will continue to target Iran's support for terrorist organizations."
He told a White House news conference that the administration expects other countries to announce new penalties of their own against Iran soon.
"This is not something the United States can do alone," he said.
The European Union is expected to announce additional steps Thursday.
Democratic Rep. Howard L. Berman, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, praised the U.S. action, saying it "will significantly extend the reach of comprehensive Iran sanctions legislation that Congress will soon pass, reinforcing and augmenting the international sanctions regime so that we can achieve our goal of persuading Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program."
New U.S. targets
The sanctions forbid financial transactions between Americans and the designated entities and also freeze any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions.
The list of additional U.S. measures includes sanctions against Iran's Post Bank for its support of nuclear proliferation, officials said. That brings to 16 the number of Iranian-owned banks on the U.S. list. Post Bank is alleged to be a front for Iran's larger Bank Sepah, which had been hit by earlier U.S. sanctions.
Among the other new U.S. targets are five front companies and a list of more than 90 names of ships that Iran's national maritime carrier has been using to try to evade sanctions, the Treasury Department's Stuart Levey told the same White House briefing.
U.S. officials accuse that carrier, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, of changing the name of numerous vessels in a bid to skirt the sanctions. The company was first hit with U.S. sanctions in September 2008.
Levey, Treasury's lead architect of U.S. sanctions on Iran, said the United States also is adding two individuals and four organizations that are part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the United States claims plays a vital role in Iran's missile programs and support for terror.
Those individuals are Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guard since September 2007, and Mohammad Reza Naqdi, who is alleged to have led the corps' attempts to elude previous sanctions.
The United States also added to its sanctions list 22 petroleum, energy and insurance companies located inside and outside Iran that are owned or controlled by the Iranian government, Levey said. Of those, eight are based in Britain, with headquarters in London; six are based in Iran; three are based offshore in Jersey, two each in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, and one in Germany.
Robert Einhorn, the State Department official in charge of implementing the sanctions, said the goal is to persuade Iran to return to the negotiating table.
"We want Iran to address the legitimate concerns of the international community about its nuclear program and its nuclear intentions," he told reporters.
Earlier Wednesday, before the U.S. announcement was made, Tehran said it would expand its atomic research by building four new reactors.
'One iota of concessions'
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged to punish the West and force it to "sit at the negotiating table like a polite child" before agreeing to further talks. He said Iran will not make "one iota of concessions," adding that he would punish world powers for the U.N. sanctions before announcing new conditions for negotiations.
"You showed bad temper, reneged on your promise and again resorted to devilish manners," he said in speech broadcast live on state TV.
U.S. officials have said for weeks that they would follow up on the U.N. sanctions resolution with unilateral action, and they have encouraged others to do so as well. The administration originally hoped to entice Iran to return to talks over its nuclear program, but after that effort fell flat, President Barack Obama turned to a strategy of increasing financial and other pressures on Iran.
Iran has for years defied international demands to prove its nuclear program is peaceful, as it insists, and not a cover for atomic weapons development, as the U.S. and its allies claim.
The U.N. Security Council now has passed four sets of international sanctions against the country aimed at determining the truth about Iran's nuclear program. Tehran insists it is not trying to develop a bomb.