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Iran legislation moves through Congress

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of bills targeting Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program advanced in the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved and sent to the full House a bill backed by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the committee, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), its senior Democrat, that would authorize sanctions against any business undertaking substantial dealings with Iran.

Such sanctions would greatly broaden existing legislation, which principally targets Iran’s energy sector.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised its advance and noted that it had 344-co-sponsors, a number that virtually guarantees its passage. “AIPAC urges the House to quickly pass the legislation,” it said in a statement.

There is no equivalent bill yet in the Senate.

Separately, a slate of Republican senators led by Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would ban the purchase of goods from any entity that the president determines is “owned or controlled” by the government of Iran.

The Senate also voted 99-0 on Wednesday to approve a nonbinding resolution that reaffirms support for Iran sanctions and expresses support for Israel as it contends with Iran in the region.

The resolution “urges that if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

An earlier version of the bill had not included the caveat “legitimate” in describing Israel’s self-defense and did not include the language requiring “accordance” with U.S. law.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who had introduced the bill with Sen. Lindsey Graham (D-S.C.), modified the language after a number of liberal groups expressed concern that the unamended language did not make sufficiently clear that the resolution does not sanction war with Iran.

The resolution, with 91 co-sponsors, also is backed by AIPAC.

Meanwhile, a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency issued Wednesday said that Iran has installed hundreds more centrifuges to refine uranium, but that it remained below the red line set by Israel for threatened intervention.

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