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US announces new sanctions targeting Iranian oil industry | Economy News

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Sanctions have been imposed on the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, the National Iranian Oil Company and the National Iranian Tanker Company.

The United States Treasury Department announced new sanctions against the Iranian oil industry Monday as part of the Trump administration’s increasing economic pressure on Iran.

Sanctions have been imposed on the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum, the National Iranian Oil Company and the National Iranian Tanker Company “for their financial support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. The Quds Force is an elite unit that is part of the 125,000-strong IRGC, a paramilitary organisation that answers only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei.

“The regime in Iran uses the petroleum sector to fund the destabilizing activities of the IRGC – QF,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the sanctions Monday.

The minister of petroleum was also blacklisted alongside other individuals and entities, and the sanctions serve to freeze any US assets they have and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.

In response to the sanctions, Iran’s oil minister wrote on Twitter on Monday that Tehran’s oil industry will not yield to pressure from the US.

Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said US sanctions against him and his colleagues “are a passive reaction to Washington’s failure to cut Tehran’s oil exports to zero”.

“The era of unilateralism is over in the world. Iran’s oil industry will not be hamstrung,” Zanganeh added.

The action imposes counterterrorism sanctions on NIOC, the National Iranian Tanker Company and National Petrochemical Company, which had previously been blacklisted by the US under different authorities.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal struck by President Barack Obama and began reimposing US sanctions that had been eased under the accord.

Iranian oil exports rose sharply in September in defiance of US sanctions, according to three assessments based on tanker tracking, throwing a lifeline to Iran and its collapsing economy.

Exports have shrunk from more than 2.5 million barrels per day since the US withdrew from the nuclear deal. Still, Iran has been working to get around the measures and keep exports flowing.

“The few remaining buyers of Iranian crude oil should know that they are helping to fund Iran’s malign activity across the Middle East, including its support for terrorism,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement.

The Treasury also imposed sanctions on Mahmoud Madanipour and United Arab Emirates-based Mobin International Limited, accusing them of entering into an agreement with Venezuelan state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to ship petrol obtained from NIOC to the government of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The British-based companies Madanipour, Mobin Holding Limited and Oman Fuel Trading Ltd were also blacklisted.

Mobin International and Oman Fuel have said they were the owners of the cargo on board several tankers confiscated by US authorities in August.

The US Justice Department said the cargo was destined for Venezuela, whose oil industry is also under US sanctions, but the companies denied in court filings that Venezuela was the destination.



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US says it has jabbed 82 million people, topping the world | Coronavirus pandemic News

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But coronavirus rates have plateaued over the past week, raising concern over yet another surge in cases and deaths.

The United States has administered 82 million coronavirus vaccine shots, White House officials announced on Friday, more than any other country in the world.

During a coronavirus task force news conference, health officials said 55 percent of Americans aged 65 and older have now received at least one shot, up from 8 percent just six weeks ago.

“Altogether we’ve administered more than 82 million shots, more than any country in the world,” said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for the COVID-19 response team.

But the US has also suffered more deaths than any other country in the world – more than 518,000 Americans have lost their lives to the disease.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccines administered during his first 100 days in office [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

US President Joe Biden who took office in January has promised to make tackling the pandemic a top priority for his administration and has set a target to vaccinate 100 million Americans by early May – to coincide with his 100 days in office. He has said the country is well under way to meeting that goal.

Officials say 450 vaccination sites have been set up around the country which has sped up the effort and they have plans to open up more sites as vaccine supplies increase over the next weeks.

In an effort to further boost the campaign, last week the US gave emergency approval to use a third vaccine produced by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Biden has also announced that the US will manufacture the J&J vaccine, a shot that requires only one dose, further speeding up the effort.

But even with the vaccination campaign well under way, officials said deaths and infection rates have plateaued in recent days, indicating that the nation could be at risk of yet another surge.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said amid the rapid spread of new variants across the country, Americans need to ‘double down’ on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, said over the past week, there have been daily 60,000-70,000 new coronavirus cases, and 1,900 Americans have been dying every day.

“The current numbers remain concerning,” Walensky said, “cases and deaths are still too high, and have now plateaued for more than week.”

Amid the rapid spread of new variants, which have been detected in 48 US states, she urged Americans need to “double down” on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing.

“I know that the idea of relaxing mask wearing and getting back to every day activities is appealing,” she said, “but we’re not there yet.”

Several states have in recent days announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on businesses and have lifted statewide mandates to wear masks. Health officials have responded with concern and urged Americans to continue to wear masks and follow precautions set under federal guidelines.

Biden blasted the decisions by state governors on Thursday, calling it “a big mistake” and “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking.”

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said the current numbers are an indication of a likely fourth surge in cases.

“When you have that much viral activity in a plateau it almost invariably means that you are at risk for another spike,” he said.

During the briefing on Friday, officials also announced that the CDC is working on publishing guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, indicating which activities they may or may not be able to resume.



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