WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) -- U.S. lawmakers called on the White House to enact tough new sanctions against the Iranian energy sector as punishment for its regional belligerence.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Washington needs the appropriate tools to address the Iranian threat to peace and security in the Middle East.
"The actions of this Iranian regime pose a threat to peace and security in the Middle East, and threaten our close ally Israel," said Dodd. "They are an affront to democratic values and human rights. And they must stop."
Dodd called for strengthened sanctions on Iran that would include tougher penalties against foreign companies that have "substantial" investments in the Iranian energy sector.
U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, last week said he would push for amendments to the Iran Sanctions Act to target the petroleum sector in Iran if it doesn't consider Washington's demands on uranium enrichment.
Iran faces U.S. and international scrutiny over its controversial nuclear program. Washington says the program is for nuclear weapons, while Tehran maintains it is pursuing civilian nuclear energy production.
Despite sitting on massive oil and gas reserves, Iran is forced to import most of its gasoline because of a lack of sufficient refining capacity.