US Treasury extends sanctions to 26 Iran-related firms

Washington, Jan 14 : The US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on 26 companies affiliated with Iran's state-run shipping line and aerospace industries that are believed to be involved in the Islamic Republic's ballistic missile programme.

The treasury Thursday designated 24 shipping companies allegedly operating as fronts for the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and two entities that are subordinates of the country's Aerospace Industries Organisation (AIO).

US entities are now banned from any transactions with the entities and the Treasury seeks to freeze any assets the designated companies and individuals have under US jurisdiction.

The blacklisting reflected the department's efforts to expose the financial and corporate underpinnings of IRISL and AIO, which face international sanctions for their involvement in Iran's missile programmes, the Treasury said in a statement.

"The actions respond to continuing efforts by Iran to evade sanctions and its ongoing creation and use of new front companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, and other deceptive measures to protect IRISL and AIO and to advance its proliferation activities," it said.

Twenty of the shipping lines operate out of Hong Kong. The timing of the listing is delicate, as Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected in Washington next week. Beijing has often been reluctant to back efforts to impose stronger sanctions on Iran.

AIO is a subsidiary of Iran's Defence Ministry and the military section that oversees its ballistic missile programme.

The US has previously blacklisted AIO and IRISL under sanctions targeting Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme. Tehran maintains its nuclear efforts, which it kept secret for almost two decades, are only aimed at generating electricity. (DPA)