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US announces new sanctions over missile programme

At least 18 individuals and entities targeted for backing ‘illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity’.

 US says it is targeting Iran for allegedly contributing to regional tensions [AP File]

The US has slapped fresh economic sanctions on Iran, targeting 18 individuals and entities for supporting what it said were “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity”.

Heather Nauert, the state department spokeswoman, accused Iran on Tuesday of testing and developing ballistic missiles “in direct defiance” of a UN Security Council resolution.

The US is “deeply” concerned about “Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity,” including support for armed groups, the Syrian regime and Houthi rebels in Yemen, she said.

Iran’s parliament retaliated by voting for extra funding for the missile program, a move that speaker Ali Larijani said would show the Americans that Iran “will resist them with

Those sanctioned had backed Iran’s military or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by developing drones and military equipment, producing and maintaining boats, and procuring electronic components, the US treasury department said in a statement.

Others has also “orchestrated the theft of US and Western software programmes” sold to Iran’s government, the treasury department said.

The US state department had also designated two other Iranian organisations involved in Iran’s ballistic missile programme, according to the treasury department.

Nuclear deal

The news comes just a day after the US administration declared that Iran was complying with the nuclear deal, while threatening more sanctions for breaching the “spirit” of the agreement.

Iranian Americans discuss US-Iran ties two years after nuclear deal

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, said that those listed in the sanctions were now prohibited from using the American banking system, and any assets they have in the US would be frozen.

“These are fairly minor, if you compare them to the sanctions lifted as part of the nuclear deal.”

The nuclear deal Iran signed with Western powers including the US does not cover Tehran’s ballistic missile programme.

But our correspondent said the new sanctions “all go back” to what President Donald Trumphad promised during the 2016 campaign to take a hardline stand against Iran.

“The nuclear deal was a huge deal during the campaign,” Culhane said, pointing to Trump’s promise to “rip it off or renegotiate” the agreement signed under the Obama administration.

While the US complained about Iran’s defiance of the spirit of the nuclear accord, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would make his own complaints about US non-compliance when representatives of the five nuclear powers – China, Russia, France, Britain, the United States – plus Germany meet in Vienna on Friday to take stock of the deal.

Zarif accused the Trump administration of failing to lift sanctions in line with the deal.

He said he had no communication with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in stark contrast to his predecessor John Kerry, with whom Zarif negotiated the groundbreaking nuclear deal.

“It doesn’t mean there can’t be. The possibilities for engagement… have always been open,” said Zarif in New York, where he was attending a UN forum on development.

Iran’s parliament, in addition to earmarking an additional $260 million for its ballistic missile program, also agreed Tuesday to allot a similar amount to the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations wing, the Quds Force, accused by Washington of fomenting unrest across the region.

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