The US Senate on Wednesday, July 25, extended sanctions against Iran and Libya for another five years, banning foreign interests from significantly investing in the two countries' oil and gas sectors.
The Senate voted 96 to 2 to extend the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, acting against President George W. Bush's administration, which had pushed for only a two-year period renewal.
It does, however, include compromise language that calls on Congress to re-evaluate the sanctions regime within 18 months time.
Signed into law in August 1996 by then-president Bill Clinton, ILSA was intended to isolate Iran and Libya at a time when both were accused by Washington of sponsoring acts of terrorism.
The House of Representatives opted late Wednesday to postpone a vote on a similar bill until Thursday. The measure must still be approved by President George W. Bush before it becomes law.
The current act bans foreign enterprises from investing more than $20 million in either Iran or Libya's energy sector, although French, Italian and Dutch companies already have defied the previous ceiling of $40 million in Libya, and $20 million in Iran.
The European Union on July 16 had warned of a souring of transatlantic relations if the United States renewed the law. In a statement after a regular monthly meeting in Brussels, EU foreign ministers expressed "concern with the likely extension" of ILSA by the US Congress.
Some US officials also believe a five-year extension would unnecessarily hinder the Bush administration from altering US policy toward Iran and Libya should Washington deem such changes warranted.
Following the Islamic revolution, the United States and Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1980 and Washington imposed an oil embargo on Tehran. Sanctions against US companies doing business in Iran were authorized in 1995.
Washington maintains no diplomatic ties with Libya, a country it considers a backer of international terrorism. US sanctions against Libya were imposed in the aftermath of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, which left 270 people dead.
Former president Bill Clinton last year lifted controls on some non-oil Iranian exports ― caviar, pistachio nuts and rugs ― in hopes of encouraging democratic shifts in Iran after reformers won in the February 2000 legislative elections. But Tehran has refused efforts to start a direct dialogue until all sanctions are lifted. ― (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )