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New Sanctions Bill Targets Iran’s Energy Sector

Iran offered to extend a visit by nuclear inspectors.

Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by various media on Monday as saying that he was “optimistic” about the results of the visit this week by inspectors from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and that their three-day visit could be extended “if necessary.”

The inspectors arrived Sunday as tensions between Iran and the West are ratcheting up. The U.S. Senate Banking Committee is set to vote Thursday on new sanctions aimed at Iran’s energy sector. The bipartisan bill would target for sanctions officials and affiliates of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Dubowitz, told Reuters that the legislation could enable the U.S. government to penalize foreign companies doing business with the National Iranian Oil Company or the National Iranian Tanker Company.

U.S.-led sanctions have intensified in the wake of an IAEA report in November that cited what it said was strong evidence of a nuclear weapons program, which Iran denies.

Iran has issued and then withdrawn threats to shut the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil must pass.

The United States has increased its naval presence in the region, and the Washington Post reported last week that the Pentagon is considering deploying a floating base for commando raids.

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