U.S President Barack Obama has signed, on Saturday 12/31/2011, into law a major defence bill including tough new sanctions against Iran. The law cuts off from the US financial system foreign firms that do business with Iran's central bank. The president signed the law in Hawaii, where he is on holiday. The move comes at a times of heightened tension over the Iranian nuclear programme (see - IAEA Report 2011).
Saturday's measures, meant to punish the Islamic Republic for its nuclear programme, were contained in a $662 billion defense bill, which officials said Obama signed despite concern it could complicate his bid to build an international front against Tehran.
Mr Obama stressed that he had concerns about parts of the legislation dealing with the handling of foreign terror suspects.
In recent weeks the US has introduced sanctions against Iran's financial sector, although it has stopped short of targeting the central bank outright.
President Obama had been cautious about harsher sanctions, fearing such a move could disrupt oil markets at a time of economic uncertainty, and alienate potential allies. The bill, which was passed by wide majorities in both houses of Congress, gives the president the power to grant a six-month grace period to give oil markets time to factor them in. Senior USA officials said Washington was engaging with its foreign partners to ensure the sanctions can work without harming global energy markets, and stressed the US strategy for engaging with Iran was unchanged by the bill.
The president's signature comes after months of wrangling between Congress and the White House over trying terror suspects. President Obama opposed provisions that would have eliminated the authority of the executive to use civilian courts for such cases. He agreed to sign the bill after the provision was dropped.
The new law only requires military custody for suspects accused of planning attacks on the US or its coalition partners. Mr Obama insisted that he would not "authorise the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens". The president's signature comes after months of wrangling between Congress.
Probably related to the new sanctions on Iran European Union foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said the EU is open to meaningful talks with Iran provided there are no preconditions on the Iranian side. EU will was in response to ambassador Ali Reza Sheikh Attar, who announced that Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, is to send a letter soon to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to arrange a new round of negotiations over the country's disputed nuclear programme.
All talks between Iran and major powers, including the latest round in January in Istanbul, have failed so far to achieve any tangible result. The new suggested round of talks is, most likely, an Iraniam attempt to delay more sanctions on Iran and to divide the Wesren powers over the Iranian issue.
Earlier, on Tuesday 12/27/2011, a senior Iranian official, Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, threatened the United States by blocking all oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, a fundamental channel for carrying about one-fifth of the worldfs oil supply. This is due to the preparations of the country with economic sanctions.
Giving the expirience with Iran they will respond to the new wave of sanctions through their proxies and allies in the Middle East, where there are large concentrations of pro-Iranian Shiaa population: Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf Emirates. They will put to test the Western powers in Syria and may be even provoke tension with Israel.
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