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US targets Iran's central bank as world takes aim at Iran's nuclear program

Secretary Clinton calls new US sanctions a 'significant ratcheting up of pressure on Iran.' Britain, France, and Canada also announce steps in wake of UN report citing 'deep concern' over Iran's nuclear program.

By Staff writer / November 21, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaks as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, listens during a news conference about new sanctions the US is taking to increase pressure on Iran, at the State Department in Washington, Monday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Washington

The United States on Monday took steps targeting Iran’s central bank and its energy sector, acting just days after the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog expressed “deep concern” about the military applications it has detected in Iran’s nuclear program.

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The Obama administration announced it was naming Iran’s central bank a “primary money laundering concern” amid mounting international pressure against Iran.

Also Monday, Britain announced it was cutting all British ties with Iranian banks, including the central bank, while Canada announced similar action. And French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to Western leaders, including President Obama, recommending an immediate freeze on the assets of Iran’s central bank.

Mr. Obama said in a statement that Iran was causing its own isolation by pursuing its current path, and he hinted that more pressure is on tap unless Tehran backs off its course.

“Iran has chosen the path of international isolation,” Obama said. “As long as Iran continues down this dangerous path, the US will continue to find ways, both in concert with our partners and through our own actions, to isolate and increase the pressure upon the Iranian regime.”

The US action taken Monday does not formally sanction Iran’s central bank, also called Bank Markazi, but the “money laundering” designation is expected to entail serious impact on its operations.

Similar steps taken in the past against North Korean and Lebanese banks caused other countries and international businesses to sever ties, and US officials are clearly hoping for a similar impact in the case of Iran.

The US also announced sanctions on a list of companies it says are involved in supporting Iran’s nuclear program, and new measures targeting Iran’s production and sales of petrochemicals and oil exports.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the measures “a significant ratcheting up of pressure on Iran.”

The administration’s action, announced jointly by Secretary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, comes as Congress moves forward on its own measures aimed at Iran’s central bank.

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