U.S. Hits 8 Iranian Officials With Sanctions

The Treasury Department added eight Iranians to a U.S. blacklist because of their role in a crackdown on protesters following last year's disputed election. This is the first time the U.S. is targeting Iranian individuals with sanctions for human rights abuses.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

President Obama's administration is adding to the new pressure against Iran. It's imposing sanctions against individuals accused of human rights abuses. Eight Iranians have been added to a new U.S. blacklist. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says this shows the U.S. is not concerned only about Iran's nuclear program, but also its ongoing crackdown on dissent.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: It's been more than a year since the U.S. raised concerns about disputed elections in Iran and the crackdown on protesters that followed. Now, Secretary Clinton is taking action, putting eight individuals on a sanctions list.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): On these officials' watch, or under their command, Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed. Yet, the Iranian government has ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses.

KELEMEN: the sanctions list includes the Iranian ministers of intelligence and interior, the prosecutor general and the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Secretary Clinton says this is the first time the U.S. has imposed sanctions against Iranians based on human rights abuses.

Ms. CLINTON: We would like to be able to tell you that it might be the last, but we fear not.

KELEMEN: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would not say if any of those targeted Iranians actually have assets in the U.S. to be frozen, but he believes the sanctions will hurt them.

Secretary TIMOTHY GEITHNER (Department of Treasury): We have found that when we single out individuals and expose their conduct, banks, businesses and governments around the world respond by cutting off their economic and financial dealings with these individuals, these institutions, these businesses.

KELEMEN: The U.S. and the United Nations already have similar sanctions that target Iranians believed to be involved in the country's suspect nuclear program, but the U.S. and its partners have yet to be able to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table on that issue.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who met Secretary Clinton yesterday, says Iranians have been giving mixed signals.

Mr. GUIDO WESTERWELLE (Foreign Minister, Germany): I think it is necessary that we try to start negotiation. But at the moment it is not enough what we hear out of Tehran.

KELEMEN: Speaking to NPR at the German embassy in Washington, the foreign minister said that diplomats working on this issue are keeping up a united front. And he says he thinks that international sanctions are working.

Mr. WESTERWELLE: Maybe that the Iranian politicians act as they are not interested in what the international community does decide. But we feel, on the other side, that they are impressed and that they know that it has serious consequences for them if they block the dialogue and if they will not come back to the table for serious negotiations.

KELEMEN: Officials are hopeful that talks could take place in the next few weeks in Europe, but the Iranians have yet to agree to a date and don't always respond to calls from the European Union diplomat in charge.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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