Sept. 26 (UPI) -- The Trump administration banned senior Iranian government officials from entering the United States and imposed sanctions against Chinese companies for dealing in Persian oil as part of its effort to force the Middle Eastern country back to the negotiation table over its nuclear program.
The White House said in a statement Wednesday that the ban on senior government officials and their family members from entering the United States is due to Tehran's sponsor of terrorism and contributions to ongoing humanitarian crisis. The Trump administration also enforced a similar ban on Venezuelan government officials.
The order came hours after the U.S. Treasury Department slapped sanctions against six Chinese companies and five Chinese nationals for transporting Iranian oil.
"This is one of the largest sanctions actions the United States has taken against entities and individuals identified as transporting Iranian oil since our sanctions were re-imposed in November 2018," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "This action is aimed to deny the Iranian regime critical income to engage in foreign conflicts, advance its ballistic missile development and fund terror around the world."
The White House has repeatedly sanctioned Iran as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign that followed U.S. President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulling out of a multination accord with Iran aimed at preventing it from acquiring a nuclear weapon that he described as ineffective.
Since then, tensions between the two countries have skyrocketed as Iran has repeatedly announced it would not comply with agreements under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as it has urged the other signatories to pick up the deficit created by the United States' withdrawal.
"Our response to any negotiation under sanctions is negative," Rouhani said. "The government and people of Iran have remained steadfast against the harshest sanctions in the past one and a half years and will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks to make Iran surrender with a weapon of poverty."
The sanctions imposed Wednesday block all U.S. property and assets owned by the companies and individuals from being sold or transferred. The five people are also banned from entering the United States.
Pompeo told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City that the United States is looking for an opportunity to negotiate with Iran.
"We want peace," Pompeo said. "We want a peaceful resolution with the Islamic Republic of Iran. We're hoping we can get that way. In the end, it'll be up to the Iranians to make that decision."