US hits Iran with sanctions ahead of key nuclear weapons talks

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States hit Iran with a series of new sanctions on Friday as President Joe Biden prepares for an important weekend meeting with European leaders to discuss the possible resumption of nuclear talks with the Islamic Republic.

The Treasury Department announced the new sentences against two senior members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and two affiliated companies for delivering deadly drones and related materials to insurgent groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Ethiopia.

Although the sanctions have nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program, the Biden government has said it would build on a possible deal to revive the languishing 2015 nuclear deal to include Iranian support for such groups and curb ballistic missile development.

Iran has not yet set a date for returning to the nuclear talks in Vienna, but has signaled that it will do so next week with the aim of resuming negotiations by the end of November. The US and others have expressed skepticism about Iran’s intentions, and Biden will meet leaders of Britain, France and Germany in Rome on Saturday to plan a strategy for Iran.

The Vienna negotiations were halted in June ahead of the Iranian election that brought hard-line president Ebrahim Raisi to power. Talks, in which the US is not directly involved because President Donald Trump stepped down from the nuclear deal in 2018, have since stalled despite the declared intentions of both Washington and Tehran to revert to the agreement.

Friday’s sanctions block any assets the targets may have in US jurisdictions, prohibit Americans from doing business with them and, perhaps more importantly, prevent possible penalties from foreign individuals and companies doing business with them.

The two targeted commanders of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brig. Gen. General Saeed Aghajani and Brig. Gen. Abdollah Mehrabi oversee the Guard’s drone activities, including assisting unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, proxy attacks on merchant ships, Saudi oil installations and U.S. American and allied interests across the Middle East, according to the Treasury Department.

“The proliferation of UAVs in Iran across the region threatens international peace and stability. Iran and its proxies have used UAVs to attack US forces, our partners and international shipping, “the Treasury Department said in a statement. “The Treasury Department will continue to hold Iran accountable for its irresponsible and violent acts.”

The two companies, Kimia Part Sivan Co. and Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar Co., and their managing directors were sanctioned for supplying engines and technical support for the drone programs, the Treasury Department said.


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