POLITICS

Trump will sign bill imposing stiff sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea

President Donald Trump said he would sign a series of bills that will impose stiff financial sanctions on Russia.

The announcement comes after Congress this week overwhelmingly approved packages to punish Moscow for allegedly meddling in U.S. elections.

After Congress approved the sanctions, Moscow said it was reducing the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia in retaliation.

In a statement late Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had "reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it."

The legislation is aimed at punishing Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad. It also imposes financial sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

Before Trump's decision to sign the bill into law, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the bill's passage was long overdue, a jab at Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress. McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has called Putin a murderer and a thug.

"Over the last eight months what price has Russia paid for attacking our elections?" McCain asked. "Very little."

Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday said it is ordering the U.S. Embassy in Russia to reduce the number of its diplomats by Sept. 1. Russia will also close down the embassy's recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.

Meanwhile, some European countries expressed concerns that the measures targeting Russia's energy sector would harm its businesses involved in piping Russian natural gas. Germany's foreign minister said his country wouldn't accept the U.S. sanctions against Russia being applied to European companies.

A spokesman for the European Commission said Friday that European officials will be watching the U.S. effort closely, vowing to "remain vigilant."

The North Korea sanctions are intended to thwart Pyongyang's ambition for nuclear weapons by cutting off access to the cash the reclusive nation needs to follow through with its plans. The bill prohibits ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports.

Goods produced by North Korea's forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States, according to the bill.

The sanctions package imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

Includes reporting by The Associated Press.