Bush Wants Two More Years of Iran, Libya Sanctions
The Bush administration is lobbying for a two-year extension of a law that punishes foreign investors in the Libyan and Iranian oil industries, a senior US State Department official said on Friday.
"We think that two years is an appropriate extension, and that seems to be something that maybe we can get agreement on ...though I wouldn't say it's locked in at this point," the official told Reuters.
The Iran Libya Sanctions Act expires in August after five years, and the powerful pro-Israeli lobby is pressing for a full five-year extension of the controversial legislation, said the agency.
US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Friday that the “Bush administration is in close contact with congress on the Iran-Libya sanctions act that the Senate is trying to renew.”
"I can't say anything in particular at this point because we're still talking with members of Congress about comparing views with them on how we should proceed," Boucher said, quoted by the official Kuwait news agency (KUNA).
Reuters, meanwhile, said that a group of US senators said on Thursday that they had the support of 74 of their 100 peers for the full extension.
A majority in the House of Representatives has also endorsed the extension.
The US official said the administration thought two years "appropriate" because it would give President George W. Bush another chance to look at the sanctions during his current term, which runs until 2005.
European governments strongly object to the ILSA because it attempts to extend US law to activities of foreign companies operating outside US jurisdiction.
In practice, whenever foreign companies were deemed liable for US retribution under the law, then president Bill Clinton waived the sanctions on the grounds of "national interest."
But the oil industry, which is lobbying against any extension, says the law has probably deterred investment in Iran and Libya, two of the biggest Middle Eastern energy producers.
The rationale for the sanctions is that the two countries are on the US list of "state sponsors of terrorism," but the State Department official noted that the United States had started to reassess Libyan leader Muammer Kadhafi.
"He's older and wiser and more mellow in his old age. We have been fairly clear in documenting the change," he said.
"They (the Libyans) have distanced themselves in some ways from active support for terrorist groups, but we still have concerns," he added. While in West Africa last month, for example, US Secretary of State Colin Powell heard complaints about Libyan activities in the region, he said – Albawaba.com
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