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GOP blocks Iran sanctions

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Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked an amendment that would have enhanced Iran sanctions.

Democrats have for months been trying to pass two sanctions-related bills that had passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House of Representatives: One would have further isolated Iran’s energy sector in a bid to get the Islamic Republic to stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program; the other, authored by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Democratic presidential nominee, would have made it easier for companies and pensions to disinvest from Iran.

The Bush administration opposed the bills because it resists infringement on executive foreign policy powers, and also because it is conducting its own sensitive negotiations with Europe, Russia and China to isolate Iran. Pro-Israel insiders have said that Republicans also did not want to hand Obama a legislative victory in an election year.

Under pressure from the pro-Israel lobby, the sides combined the bills into a compromise amendment that was to have been attached to the must-pass Defense Authorization Bill; at the last minute on Wednesday night Republicans blocked the amendment, without offering an explanation.

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