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Bills target Iran rights abusers

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of newly introduced congressional bills would expand Iran sanctions to target human rights abusers.

Matching bills introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Senate would require President Obama to make public a list of Iranian abusers and to make them subject to visa bans and financial restrictions.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.); the House bill is sponsored by Rep. Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.).

Calls for such sanctions have increased since Iran’s crackdown on the opposition in the wake of the widely disputed June 12 elections.

"Iran cannot continue with its flagrant violations of its international responsibilities," McMahon said in a statement. 

"These targeted sanctions are a clear sign to Iran that the world is watching them and that America supports the Iranian people who continue to fight for freedom and justice."

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced a similar bill last week that is likely to be wrapped into McMahon’s.

Such sanctions dovetail with the Obama administration’s preference for targeted sanctions, as opposed to the broader "crippling" sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector recently passed by both houses.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in testimony last week to the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, pleaded for leeway in the sanctions bills so she could bring on international partners for multilateral sanctions.

"We want to make sure we don’t send wrong messages before we get everyone signed up on what we can achieve internationally," she said.

A number of potential international partners for the more narrowly targeted sanctions oppose the "crippling" sanctions because they impinge on their own dealings with Iran and are seen as punishing Iranian civilians more than the regime.

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