US House approves tough new sanctions before Iran inauguration

Washington: US lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved a new round of tough sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector and other industries over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, sending a strong message to Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani days before his inauguration.
The bill, passed yesterday with a overwhelming 400-20 votes by the House of Representatives, would slap strict limits on Iran's already heavily-sanctioned oil industry, as well as on other sectors of the country's ailing economy, including the automobile and mining sectors.
The move is also aimed at crippling Iran's oil industry, considered as the lifeline of the country's economy.
The West accuses Iran of covertly developing nuclear weapons. However, Tehran denies the charge and maintains that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purpose.
The bill makes no mention of moderate mid-level cleric Rouhani's recent landslide victory or his pledge to improve Iran's ties with the West.
Rouhani will assume office on Sunday.
The bill blacklists any business in Iran's mining and construction sectors and commits the United States to the goal of ending all Iranian oil sales worldwide by 2015.
The bill builds on US penalties that went into effect last year that have cut Iran's petroleum exports in half and hurt its economy.
Still, China, India and several other Asian nations continue to buy billions of dollars of Iranian oil each month.
United States last month exempted India and eight other countries and regions from sanctions for importing oil from Iran, noting that they have significantly reduced their dependence on Iranian oil in the last six months.
Despite plummeting sales overseas, Iran remains one of the world's largest oil producers. Its exports bring in tens of billions of dollars in revenue for the country.