Washington (AFP) July 12, 2007
The US Commerce Department said Thursday it had blacklisted five Iranian energy and industrial groups, virtually ensuring the Iranian entities will not be able to do business with American companies. The move by the Commerce Department follows actions by the Treasury Department which has sought to cut off Iran's banks from the global financial system in recent months.
The Commerce Department said three of the Iranian groups were involved in "prohibited nuclear activities" in explaining its decision.
The five Iranian entities are the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mesbah Energy Company, Kala Electric Company, Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group and Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group.
The groups are already subject to US Treasury financial sanctions.
The Iranian entities have been placed on the Commerce Department's Entity List, a watchlist of groups that might use or trade materials or equipment that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.
US officials have urged Iran to freeze its nuclear activities and speculated that Tehran is attempting to build an atomic bomb. Iran denies such claims and says its nuclear program is for civilian energy purposes.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Iran as "increasingly dangerous" last week in a US television interview and said it was pursuing technologies "that would lead to a nuclear weapon."
The Commerce Department said three of the entities are involved in prohibited nuclear activities and the remaining two are involved in "prohibited rocket systems and unmanned aerial vehicle activities."
"Updating the Entity List increases awareness and supports the exporting community's critical role in preventing the inappropriate diversion of US-controlled technology to WMD activities," said Mario Mancuso, under secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security.
"The challenges posed by Iran are particularly complex and urgent, and this Entity List update strengthens our government's ability to meet those challenges," Mancuso said.
The United States has not held diplomatic relations with Iran since shortly after the Islamic revolution in 1979.
earlier related report
The nuclear-powered USS Enterprise and its strike group will join the USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz in the navy's Fifth Fleet area of operation, which includes Gulf waters off Iran.
"The Enterprise is heading to Fifth Fleet waters and is not replacing any other ships in the area," a US Navy spokesperson told AFP without elaborating.
The US Navy has significantly beefed up its presence in the region recently amid growing concerns in the West that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapons programme -- an accusation Tehran strongly denies.
The Enterprise "provides navy power to counter the assertive, disruptive and coercive behaviour of some countries, as well as support (to) our soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan," Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgrifff said in the statement.
"Regular deployments of the strike groups to the Middle East are not designed to provoke any of the Gulf countries," it added.
The US Fifth Fleet has its headquarters in the Bahraini capital Manama, and is responsible for an area of some 6.5 square kilometres (2.5 million square miles).
In January Washington said it planned to keep two carrier battle groups in the Gulf for months -- the first such deployment since 2003.
The small Gulf archipelago of Bahrain has been designated by the United States as a major non-NATO ally, and also has a free trade agreement with Washington.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Mixed Signals From Iran
Washington (UPI) Jul 05, 2007
The Swiss cartoon shows an angry U.S. general briefing a puzzled President George W. Bush with a map of the Middle East. "Here you can see the Lebanonization of Iraq, the Iraqization of Palestine, and the Palestinization of Lebanon." Baffling signals are the norm in the Middle East. The latest come from Iran.
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