April 20, 2010 | Quote

U.S. Lawmaker to Push Iran Gasoline Sanctions Bill

WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) – The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives said on Friday revelations about Iran’s new secret uranium enrichment facility have made him more determined to move ahead with sanctions to cut off Iran’s foreign gasoline supplies.

U.S. lawmakers are calling for tough action against Iran after it told the United Nations nuclear watchdog it was constructing a second uranium enrichment facility, which the United States and many other countries fear will be used to develop a nuclear bomb.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes like electricity generation.

“There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Iran has been lying to the international community for years about its allegedly peaceful nuclear intentions,” said Democratic Representative Howard Berman.

Berman said the revelation about Iran’s secret enrichment plant “reinforces my determination” to bring the sanctions bill before the foreign relations panel in October.

Iran has some of the world’s biggest oil reserves, but it imports 40 percent of its gasoline to meet growing demand because of a lack of refining capacity. Government subsidies also help keep gasoline in Iran much cheaper than in other countries — at around 43 cents a gallon.

Cutting off Iran’s gasoline supplies would raise pump prices that could cripple the country’s economy. This would be on top of the political unrest already occurring over Iran’s disputed presidential election.

Sanctions on Iran’s fuel suppliers were also drawing support from Republican Party ranks.

“The U.S. and other countries must immediately impose crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime, including cutting off Iran’s imports of gasoline,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Berman’s bill would impose sanctions on foreign companies that export refined petroleum products, such as gasoline, to Iran or help maintain the country’s domestic refining capacity.

This would include companies that provide ships or shipping services to transport the fuel, underwrite the shipments and finance or broker the gasoline cargoes.

“Congress should act immediately to give the president the tools he needs to implement sanctions on Iran,” said House Republican Whip Eric Cantor.

“Gasoline sanctions should be pursued even as the Obama administration prepares to begin negations with Iran in October,” said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“This will strengthen our negotiating hand and is more appropriate now than ever, given the revelation that the regime failed to disclose its second enrichment site as required by international law,” he added. (Editing by Walter Bagley)