US House passes Iran sanctions bill amid nuclear row

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Iran aimed at halting its disputed nuclear programme.

The measure empowers President Barack Obama to ban foreign firms that supply Iran with refined petroleum from doing business in the US.

The bill, which passed 412-12, can only become law if approved by the Senate.

The measure expands an existing US law that punishes any firm that invests $20m a year in Iran's energy sector.

Iran has one of the world's largest oil reserves but it lacks refining capacity and imports 40% of its oil.

It gets most of those imports from European firms such as Vitol, Trafigura, Total and British Petroleum.

Under the proposed new sanctions, firms could be banned from doing business with the US or blocked from receiving financial assistance from American institutions.

'Could backfire'

The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington says the bill is a warning to Iran that Congress is serious about imposing significant sanctions unless the Iranian leadership demonstrates that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.

Critics of the legislation say it could backfire and lead to Iranian citizens blaming the US for any supply shortages.

"This will unify the Iranian people against us," said Republican Representative Ron Paul, who opposed the measure.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the measures sent a clear sig... >>>

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