The US Senate has approved a new round of sanctions against Iran's energy, port, shipping and shipbuilding sectors in its latest effort to mount economic pressure on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear energy program. Senators voted 94-0 to make the new sanctions part of an annual defense policy bill. It should now pass through the House of Representatives, Reuters reported. The new sanctions would then be given to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The new sanctions would also blacklist the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and its chief, Ezzatollah Zarghami. They would block all the IRIB assets and prevent others from doing business with it. The sanctions against the IRIB are another attempt by the West to silence Iranian media. In a flagrant violation of the freedom of speech, two satellite providers Eutelsat SA and Intelsat SA stopped the broadcast of several Iranian satellite channels in October, citing pressure by the European Union. Earlier this month, the Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (AsiaSat) also took all Iranian channels off air in East Asia under pressure from the US. The new round of sanctions comes on the heels of the US so-called "toughest-ever" restrictions against the Islamic Republic in 2011. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey co-authored the package with Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut.
Under the new rules, the United States would sanction anyone selling or supplying certain commodities to Iran -- including graphite, aluminum, steel, and some industrial software -- that are relevant to the country's shipbuilding and nuclear sectors.Senate aides confirmed that the new package also includes measures to stop the flow of gold from Turkey into Iran. This comes as Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said earlier on Thursday that he was not worried about a "clash with the USA" over the trade. The US, Israel and some of their allies claim that Tehran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program with US and European Union using that claim as pretext to impose international and unilateral sanctions on Iran. Tehran rejects the allegations against its nuclear energy activities, arguing that as a committed signatory to Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran's nuclear energy program has been diverted toward military purposes. MP/SF/HGH/SS