Iran Blocks U.N. Nuclear Team
Iran denied United Nations inspectors access to a suspected nuclear site, scientists and documents during a visit to Tehran this week, dimming already scant hopes for a breakthrough to end a standoff over Iran’s nuclear work, according to diplomats briefed on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s mission.
The IAEA said it will return a senior-level team to Iran later this month to try and build on three days of discussions that were held with senior Iranian officials, which ended Tuesday.
But U.S. and European officials are already voicing concerns that Tehran is seeking to use the dialogue to divide the international community and stave off additional financial penalties that are being crafted in Washington and the European Union.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved a sanctions bill to further curb Iran’s access to high technology and munitions, intended to help cripple Tehran’s energy sector and the businesses of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s elite military unit.
An amendment to the bill provides for possible sanctions against the management and ownership of the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift, which facilitates the flow of electronic financial transactions globally.
U.S. lawmakers are alleging that Swift has aided blacklisted Iranian banks in evading U.S. and EU sanctions, a charge the organization denies. “The measures…will further increase the pressure on Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and sponsorship of global terrorism,” said Tim Johnson (D., S.D.) chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
The Obama administration and the EU have significantly increased financial pressure in recent weeks, including decisions to put sanctions on Iran’s central bank and an embargo on Iranian oil shipments to Europe. Tehran has branded these measures as acts of war and threatened to retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz, the sea route for oil shipments from the Persian Gulf.