BBC NEWS – 10/02/10

The US Treasury has imposed sanctions against companies connected with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

The action extends earlier sanctions against the Guards and its construction company headquarters.

It aims to freeze the foreign assets of four companies connected to Khatam al-Anbiya Construction and its chief officer.

The company’s profits help fund Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, the US Treasury said.

The company is the construction arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards force, the US says.

The US Treasury named the company’s head as Revolutionary Guard General Rostam Qasemi, who has also had assets outside Iran frozen under the sanctions.

Khatam al-Anbiya builds infrastructure like highways and tunnels, with profits going back into the Iranian military programme to develop what the US Treasury called “illicit activities”.

Nuclear ambition

These included “WMD proliferation and support of terrorism”, according to a statement released on the US Treasury website.

MARDELL’S AMERICA

Mark Mardell

The US has gone it alone today, trying to put the financial squeeze on the Revolutionary Guard, and there’s no sign so far of anyone else joining in

Mark Mardell

BBC North America editor

US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the US and its allies were moving “fairly quickly” toward adding new sanctions on Iran, in an attempt to curb its nuclear programme.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the US and its European allies were pushing Russia towards agreeing to further sanctions on Iran.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is strictly peaceful in nature.

But it has said it will continue to enrich uranium to 20%, higher than it has ever done before.

A nuclear weapon requires uranium to be enriched to 90%, experts say.

The jump from the low levels of enrichment currently available to Iran to 20% is the most difficult step toward enriching nuclear material to weapons grade, the experts add.