U.S. Hits Firms Over Iran; Sanctions Debate Goes on

WASHINGTON (AP) -

The United States targeted more than a dozen companies and people on Thursday for allegedly evading sanctions against Iran, an effort by the Obama administration to show it will enforce existing law even as it presses Congress to hold off on additional measures while world powers pursue a comprehensive nuclear deal with Tehran.

The action freezes the U.S. assets of firms in Panama, Singapore, Ukraine and elsewhere for maintaining covert business with Iran’s national tanker company. Other companies involved directly in the proliferation of material useful for weapons of mass destruction also were blacklisted from the U.S. market. American citizens are banned from any transactions with the listed individuals and firms.

The announcement by the Treasury and State departments comes as the administration is furiously lobbying lawmakers to refrain from any new package of sanctions on Iran after last month’s interim nuclear agreement in Geneva. As part of the deal, the U.S. agreed to no new nuclear-related financial penalties against Tehran for six months, and Iran’s foreign minister has warned that any such action could kill the diplomatic effort.

Still, many Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for even tougher measures to raise the pressure further on the Islamic republic, despite the administration’s pleas for patience.