US-Israel group demands "crippling" Iran sanctions
Wed, Mar 10, 2010

WASHINGTON, US - Powerful pro-Israel US lobby group AIPAC, in a rare letter to every member of the US Congress, called Tuesday for "crippling new sanctions on Iran" over Tehran's suspect nuclear program.

"Iran has pursued a nuclear weapons capability, flouting its international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and presenting the international community with a growing, and now urgent, threat," it said.

"As Iran continues to reject US-European engagement efforts and to defy UN Security Council resolutions requiring that it halt its illicit uranium enrichment efforts, the United States must take action now," it said.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also pressed Congress to look into why companies that do business with Iran's energy sector have never been punished under a 1996 US law aimed at discouraging such investments.

In the letter, signed by executive director Howard Kohr and president David Victor, AIPAC expressed "outrage" over a recent New York Times report charging that Washington gave billions of dollars to firms that do business in Iran.

They called on lawmakers to enact "without delay" legislation that would punish firms engaged in Tehran's energy sector or that provide sensitive technology to the Islamic republic by denying them US government contracts.

AIPAC urged the Congress to "demand" that President Barack Obama's administration "enforce existing sanctions law and impose crippling new sanctions on Iran."

"In addition to these actions, we hope you will join with us in urging the administration to impose tough new multilateral sanctions with like-minded states without delay while continuing to pursue the widest possible sanctions through the UN Security Council," it said.

The letter came as US lawmakers stepped up calls for new sanctions on Iran ahead of November US mid-term elections, expressing concerns about the threat Tehran poses to the staunch US ally Israel.

The Islamic republic denies Western charges that its civilian nuclear program hides a covert quest for an atomic arsenal and is under several rounds of UN sanctions for refusing to freeze uranium enrichment. --AFP

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