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Obama Extends U.S. Sanctions Against Iran

Despite the ongoing sanctions, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has said he is open to talks with Washington

Despite the ongoing sanctions, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has said he is open to talks with Washington

(RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has extended U.S. sanctions against Iran for at least another year, saying the Iranian government's policies continue to pose an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to the United States.

Obama declared the routine extension of economic sanctions imposed by the United States in March 1995 in a public notice.

The sanctions, which prohibit U.S. companies from aiding the development of the Iranian oil industry or having trade and investment ties with Iran, were imposed over allegations that Iran is involved in terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Iran denies the charges. Iranian officials have said on a number of occasions that the country's nuclear activities are peaceful.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad dismissed international sanctions against Iran as a "childish idea and a big mistake," the official IRNA news agency reported.

In a change of policy from the Bush administration, Obama has said he would be open to engaging with Iran. But he has also said that he will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration is currently putting together new policies toward Iran.

Bahman Aghayi Diba, a Washington-based Iran analyst, tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda that at this stage the extension of the sanctions is a natural step, as the "nature of the new U.S. policies and how they will be implemented is not clear yet."

Iran has not yet reacted to the extension of sanctions. Aghayi Diba believes that Iranian officials would react to the move by saying that Obama has failed to realize his campaign promise of change.

"Without any doubt the reaction in Iran is going to be negative and it would be interpreted as a failure in the U.S. to bring change under Obama as he had claimed or promised," Diba says. "But it wasn't [realistic ]to expect that Obama would change the situation now."

Afghanistan Talks

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the United States is likely to invite Iran to an international conference on Afghanistan that is due to be held in the Netherlands on March 31. Iran has said it is prepared to consider the invitation.

Some observers say that talks on Afghanistan, which borders Iran, could be a good start for Iran and the United States to later discuss other issues such as Iran's controversial nuclear program.

"The Wall Street Journal " reports that the Obama administration is considering lifting a ban on regular diplomatic contacts with Iran and looking at ways to develop a direct line of communication to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On March 11, "The Boston Globe" reported that the Obama administration is leaning toward making a major diplomatic overture to Iran before the June 12 presidential election. According to the report, the move could come in the form of a letter by Obama to Khamenei who has the last say in all state matters in the Islamic republic.

with agency reporting