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Senate Finance To Take Up Iran Sanctions Bill On Wednesday

With President Bush just back from a weeklong trip to Europe seeking support for beefed-up sanctions against Iran, Senate Democrats will move ahead with legislation this week designed to ratchet up the pressure on Russia and U.S. and foreign companies doing business there.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has scheduled a Wednesday markup of the “Iranian Sanctions Act of 2008,” which includes a new ban on sales of American-made aircraft parts to Iran, bars the U.S. government from granting export licenses for “nuclear-related goods and services to Russia” until the White House certifies that Russia has suspended nuclear assistance and arms sales to Iran, and imposes penalties against the U.S. parent companies if its foreign subsidiaries do business with the Iranians.

Bush has already banned trade with Iran under executive order, but the Baucus bill would “codify” that order into statutory language while narrowing the list of what could be bought from or sold to Iran. The Baucus legislation exempts food, medicine and other “humanitarian assistance” being sent to Iran, as well as “publications, films, posters” and other “information materials.”

Bush would also be required to report back to Congress on those individuals or companies that have invested more than $20 million in Iran’s oil and natural gas industries, as well as explain why they haven’t been sanctioned under U.S. law. A 1996 law requires the U.S. government to impose such sanctions, but they have not been enforced by the White House.

Additionally, U.S. contributions to the World Bank would be reduced if the organization continues to provide loans to Iran. The United States is the largest financial backer of the World Bank.

“My Iran sanctions bill cracks down on resources to Iran’s regime, abides by international rules, and permits appropriate assistance and outreach directly to Iran’s people at the same time,” Baucus said in a statement.
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