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U.S. sanctions international network aiding Iran in selling petrochemicals in Asia

U.S. sanctions international network aiding Iran in selling petrochemicals in Asia
The U.S. Treasury under Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday sanctioned a network of international companies accused of dealing in Iranian petrochemicals. File Photo by Graeme Jennings/UPI | License Photo

July 6 (UPI) -- The Biden administration imposed sanctions Wednesday against an international network accused of aiding in the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products in East Asia.

Thirteen companies in Iran, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as two Iranian nationals were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury, freezing all U.S. assets in their name and blocking Americans from doing business with them.

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The Treasury said the international network was blacklisted over its use of Gulf-based front companies to sell Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products.

The sanctions come as the United States continues to ratchet the pressure on Iran to force the Middle Eastern country to return to the negotiating table over the resumption of an Obama-era multination nuclear pact that aims to deny Tehran from gaining atomic weapons.

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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was agreed to by Iran, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union in 2015.

However, former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal and imposed sanctions on Iran in 2018 with hopes of establishing a new pact.

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Since the administration of President Joe Biden was inaugurated last year, the United States has sought a return to the agreement.

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Two weeks ago, Washington also sanctioned a similar network of Iranian petrochemical producers and front companies in China and the UAE.

"The United States is pursuing the path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," Brian Nelson, the under secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement. "Absent a deal, we will continue to use our sanctions authorities to limit exports of petroleum, petroleum products and petrochemical products from Iran."

The Treasury on Wednesday identified Iran-based Marun Petrochemical Company, Kharg Petrochemical Company and Fanavaran Petrochemical Company on accusations of selling and exporting petrochemicals to China.

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Several front companies were also hit with sanctions for being used to process payments and evade sanctions in the exportation of Iranian petrochemical products, the Treasury said.

The two Iranian nationals, Morteza Rajabieslami and Mahdieh Sanchuli, were blacklisted over their involvement in exporting Iranian crude oil and petrochemical products on behalf of Switzerland-based Naftiran Intertrade Company through companies and vessels that they control.

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The U.S. State Department also designated Vietnam-based Truong Phat Loc Shipping Trading JSC, Singapore-based Everwin Ship Management and Iran-based Zagros Tarabaran-E Arya, Persian Gulf Star Oil Company and East Ocean Rashin Shipping Co.

"The United States has been sincere and steadfast in pursuing a path of meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. "It is Iran that has, to date, failed to demonstrate a similar commitment to that path."

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