U.S. sanctions Belarusian energy company

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department hit an energy company in Belarus with sanctions for working in Iran, though one lawmaker said it wasn't enough.

The U.S. State Department accuses Iran of using its energy sector to fund its nuclear proliferation activity and to mask its procurement of dual-use items. As part of a Washington strategy to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions, the State Department said it sanctioned state-owned energy company Belarusneft for its involvement in the Iranian petroleum sector.

Washington said it confirmed Belarusneft in 2007 entered into a $500 million deal with NaftIran Intertrade Co. for development of the Jofeir oilfield in Iran. U.S. laws on Iranian sanctions target companies doing more than $20 million worth of business in Iran.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the announcement but said the State Department wasn't going far enough.

She said that Washington was only targeting "low-hanging fruit like Belarusneft" instead of going after larger companies.

"That's the only way that our sanctions will have the force to compel the Iranian regime to stop policies and programs that threaten the United States," she said in a statement.


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