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U.S. House asks for punitive measures against Iran, Pakistan

12-15-2011 13:40 BJT

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday evening passed a massive defense bill, asking for sanctions on Iran's central bank and freezing some aid to Pakistan.

The bill, approved with a 283-136 vote, was expected to pass the Senate later this week before landing on President Barack Obama's desk for his signature into law.

It requests new sanctions on Iran, targeting foreign financial institutions that do business with the Islamic republic's central bank. However, as a result of changes made to the original version of the bill, the president can waive the penalties by notifying the Congress that the move is in the interest of U.S. national security.

Government officials said that sanctions on the central bank, the main conduit for Iran's oil revenues, could roil markets and push up prices.

The UN Security Council imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran between 2006 and 2010 as the country refused to halt its nuclear enrichment program, which Western countries suspect could be used to develop fuel for nuclear bombs.

Last month, the United States, Britain and Canada expanded targeted sanctions on Iran, in response to a report released on Nov. 8 by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which outlined alleged clandestine activities toward making nuclear bombs by the country.

The House bill also freezes 700 million U.S. dollars in aid for Pakistan until the Congress gets a report from the defense secretary on how Islamabad is countering the threat of improvised explosive devices against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

U.S.-Pakistani ties, strained since May when U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden, the then leader of the al-Qaida terror network, in a raid inside Pakistan without first notifying the country, have sunk to a new low since 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed and 13 others injured by attacks of NATO fighter jets and helicopters on Nov. 26.

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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