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In tit-for-tat, Iran slaps sanctions on 15 US firms trading with Israel

27 March 2017

A year after the US and its allies lifted sanctions on Iran over its alleged nuclear build-up, it is now the Islamic republic's turn to impose sanctions on 15 US companies for alleged human rights violations and cooperating with Israel.

Quoting Iranian foreign minister, the state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday that the sanctions were imposed on the American companies that had ''flagrantly violated human rights'' and cooperated with Israel against the Palestinians.

The firms, however, have little business with Iran and therefore the tit-for-tat decision that comes two days after the US announced new sanctions on a number of foreign firms accused of collaborating with Iran's weapons programme, is largely symbolic because the US firms do not do business with Iran.

Iran's sanctions target US firms that provide arms and equipment to Israel ''for use against the Palestinians'', IRNA said.

''All transactions with these firms are forbidden, their assets will be seized and their officials will not be able to obtain a visa,'' it added.

The firms include United Technologies, ITT Corporation, Magnum Research INC, Military Armament Corporation and Bushmaster Firearms International. Besides, the list includes companies like Re/Max Real Estate, which Tehran accuses of ''buying and selling homes in settlements located in the occupied territories''.

The development is seen as a post-Trump development, especially after the US administration imposed travel curbs on nine people from Islamic countries and imposed sanctions on 30 foreign companies or individuals for transferring sensitive technology to Iran for its missile programme, or for violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria.

Trump has also criticised the July 2015 deal between Iran and western powers that lifted sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange of curbs on its nuclear programme.

Washington now wants to pressure Iran further over its ballistic missile programme. US lawmakers are now proposing a new law that would see Iran's Revolutionary Guards listed as a terrorist organisation.

Iran's central bank, meanwhile, said it will appeal the decision of the European Court in Luxembourg to freeze $1.6 billion of its assets, which the US is claiming as compensation for victims of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

The bank also said it would take steps to curb its remaining transactions in dollars, which it still receives particularly for oil sales.

A Luxembourg court last week denied Tehran's request to retrieve the $1.6 billion frozen in the country during an earlier raft of sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear programme.

US lawyers are hoping to seize the money to pay off the families and estates of victims from the 2001 attacks, after a New York judge ruled Iran was partially responsible because it allowed Al-Qaeda members to travel through its territory.

Iran rejects the accusation and demands the return of the money, which is frozen in the Clearstream clearing house, a financial company based in Luxembourg.

A separate case is being heard in Luxembourg to decide whether the money will be released to the US.

Billions of dollars in Iranian assets were frozen in the US and Europe as part of efforts to push Tehran into a nuclear deal with world powers, which was finally signed in July 2015.

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