America turns up pressure on Iran with sanctions threat

The United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said yesterday the US would cut off Iran's "malignant" activities in Iraq and was working urgently to impose more punitive measures against Tehran.

Speaking to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Rice said Washington was looking closely at "new designations" against Tehran, which the US accuses of fomenting violence in Iraq and pursuing an atomic bomb.

"One of our best levers, and it is a really simple proposition, Iran should not be able to use the international financial system to move its ill-gotten gains from proliferation or terrorism around the world," Rice said.

Rice did not provide details of when or what sanctions might be imposed. But US officials say the Bush Administration is close to imposing restrictions on the elite Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US accuses of arming and training militants in Iraq.

The Washington Post reported that Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would jointly announce a package of unilateral sanctions against Iran today. Citing US officials, the newspaper said the sanctions would empower the US to financially isolate a large part of Iran's military and anyone inside or outside Iran who did business with it.

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