WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday night to strengthen existing sanctions against Iran and impose new ones aimed at its gasoline supplies as part of the U.S. effort to dissuade Tehran from pursuing nuclear weapons and cracking down on internal dissent.
"We have all watched the Iranian regime oppress its own people on the streets of Iran and continue to defy the international community on nuclear issues," Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement following a voice vote that approved the bill. "That is why it is so important that we move this legislation forward quickly."
The measure would extend sanctions to oil and gas pipelines and tankers and impose new sanctions on imports to Iran of certain refined petroleum products.
It also would expand sanctions to cover a range of financial institutions and businesses; impose a broad ban on direct imports from Iran to the U.S. and exports from the U.S. to Iran, exempting food and medicines, and require the Obama administration to freeze the assets of Iranians, including Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, who are active in weapons proliferation or terrorism.
"The Iranian regime has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its own citizens, funded terrorist activity throughout the Middle East and pursued illicit nuclear activities posing a serious threat to the security of the United States and our allies," Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, a sponsor of the measure, said in a statement. "With passage of this bill, we make it clear that there will be appropriate consequences if these actions continue."
Iran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Senate and House negotiators now must work out differences between the Senate bill and a similar measure already passed by the House. A final bill, once passed by both chambers, would be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.