Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi inspect a plant in Tehran on April 9, 2019. Salehi was targeted with new U.S. sanctions on Thursday. File Photo by Iranian Presidency Office/EPA-EFE
Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury has imposed fiscal sanctions against Iran's nuclear energy chief and ordered his U.S.-linked assets frozen, amid ongoing tensions between the Washington, D.C., and Tehran.
The Treasury on Thursday sanctioned Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, saying the agency has played a significant role in Tehran violating nuclear regulations.
Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative to Iran, told reporters the AEOI "has exceeded the limits on its uranium stockpile and enrichment levels."
The Trump administration also extended waivers Thursday allowing foreign companies to continue non-proliferation work at Iranian nuclear sites, including the Bushehr plant in southern Iran, which is being retrofitted for peaceful uses under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Trump withdrew the United States from the six-nation pact in 2018 and reinstated economic sanctions.
Friday, Tehran denounced the new sanctions, saying they smack of "desperation."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the penalties are gratuitous and intended to divert attention from Trump's impeachment trial.
"[Sanctions] will have no effect on the development of the Islamic Republic of Iran's peaceful nuclear program," he said.
"This is not the first time that he has been placed on the list of illegal and unilateral sanctions, just as it is not the first time that our nuclear scientists have been the target of the animosity of the U.S. and the Zionist regime."