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US Extends Iran Sanction Waivers       03/31 06:15

   The Trump administration on Monday renewed several waivers on U.S. sanctions 
against Iran, allowing Russian, European and Chinese companies to continue to 
work on Iran's civilian nuclear facilities without drawing American penalties.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration on Monday renewed several 
waivers on U.S. sanctions against Iran, allowing Russian, European and Chinese 
companies to continue to work on Iran's civilian nuclear facilities without 
drawing American penalties.

   Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the waiver extensions but 
couched the decision as one that continues restrictions on Iran's atomic work. 
"Iran's continued expansion of nuclear activities is unacceptable. The regime's 
nuclear extortion is among the greatest threats to international peace and 
security," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

   Current and former officials familiar with the matter said Pompeo had 
opposed extending the waivers, which are among the few remaining components of 
the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that the administration has not canceled.

   However, the officials said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had prevailed 
in an internal debate on the subject last week by arguing that the coronavirus 
pandemic made eliminating the waivers unpalatable at a time when the 
administration is being criticized for refusing to ease sanctions to deal with 
the outbreak. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the 
decision and spoke on condition of anonymity.

   Last week, the administration slapped new sanctions on 20 Iranian people and 
companies for supporting Shia militia in Iraq held responsible for attacks on 
bases where U.S. forces are located. At the same time, however, it extended 
another sanctions waiver to allow energy-starved Iraq to keep importing Iranian 
power.

   President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and has 
steadily reimposed U.S. sanctions on Iran that had been eased or lifted under 
its terms. The so-called "civilian-nuclear cooperation" waivers allow foreign 
companies to do work at some of Iran's declared nuclear sites without becoming 
subject to U.S. sanctions.

   Deal supporters say the waivers give international experts a valuable window 
into Iran's atomic program that might otherwise not exist. They also say some 
of the work, particularly at the Tehran reactor on nuclear isotopes that can be 
used in medicine, is humanitarian in nature.

   But Iran hawks in Congress have been pressing Pompeo to eliminate all the 
waivers, saying they should be revoked because they give Iran access to 
technology that could be used for weapons. The hawks most strenuously objected 
to the waiver that allowed work at Iran's once-secret Fordow facility, which is 
built into a mountain.

   Pompeo canceled the Fordow waiver in mid-December but the others, which 
allow work at the Bushehr nuclear power station, the Arak heavy water plant and 
the Tehran Research Reactor, were last extended in late January for 60 days. On 
Monday, the waivers were extended for another 60 days. 


(KR)

 
 
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