April 20, 2010 | Reuters

US House Bill Would Punish Iranian Gasoline Trade

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) – Suppliers, brokers, insurers and tankers carrying gasoline to Iran could face U.S. sanctions if a bill making the rounds in the U.S. House of Representatives finds support, lawmakers say.

“If we are serious about stopping the emergence of a nuclear Iran, our window for effective diplomacy is starting to close,” said Republican Representative Mark Kirk, one of the authors of the bill.

Kirk, along with 24 other legislators, introduced the Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act late Wednesday as a move to gain leverage over Iran and compel the country to heed global demands to halt its nuclear program.

Although Iran is rich in oil, its capacity to turn the resource into the gasoline and diesel fuel is limited and lawmakers estimate that up to 40 percent of Iran’s gasoline is imported.

When faced with a choice between doing business with the United States or with Iran, legislators are betting that most companies will side with the United States, crippling Iran’s energy sector.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies applauded the initiative taken to cut off gasoline sales to Iran in hopes of freezing its nuclear activities.

“Iran’s reliance on imported gasoline to fuel its economy and military is the regime’s Achilles’ Heel,” said Mark Dubowitz, the policy institute’s executive director.

Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is peaceful, is in violation of five United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The bill identified six companies that Iran bought most of its gasoline from in the past year.

They include the Swiss firms Vitol and Glencore International [GLEN.UL], the Swiss and Dutch firm Trafigura, France’s Total (TOTF.PA), BP (BP.L) and India’s Reliance Industries (RELI.BO).

The bill would also extend sanctions to companies that provide any goods, services or technology for building refineries in Iran.

President Barack Obama suggested restricting gasoline imports to Iran when he was on the campaign trail. (Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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