Friday, February 23, 2007

US Treasury names Iran firms weapons proliferators

WASHINGTON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Stepping up U.S. financial pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, the Treasury Department labeled three Iranian companies on Friday as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and banned Americans from transactions with them.

The Treasury, invoking an executive order recently used against Iranian state-owned banks, said it would also seek to freeze any U.S. assets of Kalaye Electric Co., Kavoshyar Co. and Pioneer Energy Industries Co.

It said the companies are either owned by, controlled by, or acting on behalf of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the government agency that manages Iran's overall nuclear program, including efforts to enrich uranium through centrifuge and laser processes.

"Treasury is taking this action to deny Iran access to the materials and services that support its nuclear ambitions," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury's under secretary for for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The action was consistent with the U.N. Security Council's recent resolution aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program, Levey added in his statement. The resolution imposes sanctions, including suspension of financial services, against 10 Iranian organizations and 12 individuals associated with Tehran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In January, the Treasury banned U.S. companies and citizens from doing business with Iranian-state-owned Bank Sepah, citing its financing of Iran's efforts to procure ballistic missile technology. The Treasury in September 2006 also moved to freeze another state-owned institution out of the U.S. financial system, Bank Saderat, accusing Iran of using it to transfer money to terrorist organizations.

Iran has denied U.S. accusations against the banks. U.S. officials have since been working to persuade other countries to cut financial ties to the institutions.

In Friday's designation, the Treasury said Kalaye Electric has been linked to Iran's centrifuge research and development efforts and was listed in documents attached to the U.N. Security Council resolution due to its involvement in Iran's nuclear program.

Kavoshyar's sole shareholder is the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and Pioneer Energy provides services to AEOI, including technological support, the Treasury said.

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