U.S. Sanctions Iranian Firm

The Bush administration on Wednesday slapped financial sanctions on a major Iranian shipping line and its affiliates for allegedly helping to transfer military-related arms and cargo.

The departments of State and Treasury announced the action against the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, also known as IRISL, and 18 related companies for providing logistical services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which controls Iran's ballistic missile research, development and production activities.

The action means that any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the company that are found in the United States are frozen. Americans also are forbidden from doing business with the company and its affiliates.

A U.S. Treasury official also said the U.S. and its allies are urging the insurance industry to implement U.N. sanctions on Iran.

It marks the latest effort to tighten the financial noose on Iran, which the United States accuses of bankrolling terrorism and seeking a nuclear bomb.

The United States alleges that the Iranian shipping company facilitated shipments of "military-related cargo" destined for Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics. The United States alleges the company falsified documents to conceal its cargo.

"Not only does IRISL facilitate the transport of cargo for U.N. designated proliferators, it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce," Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence said in a statement. "IRISL's actions are part of a broader pattern of deception and fabrication that Iran uses to advance its nuclear and missile program," he claimed.

The U.N. Security Council has passed three round of sanctions on Iran and a fourth set has been talked about — with the aim of curtailing the country's nuclear and missile program. Iran insists its enrichment program is intended to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity and has vowed to push ahead with it.