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US Sanctions Iranian General for Aiding Iraq Insurgents

The United States Wednesday imposed sanctions against a general in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps for helping insurgents in Iraq. The U.S. Treasury Department action also targets three Iraqis living in Iran and Syria and a Syrian-based television station. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The move by the Treasury Department underscores U.S. concern about Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and particularly its elite Quds Force, which administration officials believe has helped orchestrate insurgent attacks and sectarian violence in Iraq.

The most prominent target of the new financial sanctions is the Quds Force commanding officer, Brigadier-General Ahmad Foruzandeh, who a Treasury statement said has led "terrorist operations" against U.S.-led coalition forces and directed assassinations of prominent Iraqis.

Also named are two Iranian-based Iraqis - Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani and Ismail Hafiz al-Lami - said to be directing Shi'ite extremists in Iraq and a Syrian-based Iraqi, Mishan al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi parliamentarian who owns a Syrian television station that has openly backed the Iraqi insurgency.

The television station itself, Al-Zawra, is also being sanctioned and is accused by the Treasury Department of broadcasting coded messages to a Sunni terrorist group, the Islamic Army of Iraq.

The U.S. action freezes any bank accounts or other assets the TV station or the four individuals may have in the United States, and forbids Americans from doing business with them.

Administration officials concede Wednesday's order will likely have little practical impact. But Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism Stuart Levey said the move brings to light "the lethal actions" of the sanction targets, and he urged the international community to join the United States in isolating them from the global economy.

The Bush administration imposed sanctions on the overall Quds Force last October in an effort to increase pressure on Tehran over both its activities in Iraq and its nuclear program.

In his Jerusalem news conference Wednesday, President Bush reiterated the administration's determination to try to get Iran to change its behavior by diplomatic means including sanctions:

"I believe it's incumbent upon the American president to solve problems diplomatically," said President Bush. "And that's exactly what we're in the process of doing. I believe that pressure, economic pressure, financial sanctions, will cause the people inside of Iran to have to make a considered judgment about whether or not it makes sense for them to continue to enrich [uranium] or face world isolation. The country is paying an economic price for its intransigence and its unwillingness to tell the truth."

The latest sanctions are being imposed under an executive order the president signed last July authorizing penalties against Iraqi insurgent groups and their supporters.

A U.S.-led effort to impose a third round of sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program has stalled in the wake of a U.S. intelligence report last month that Tehran halted a covert nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Mr. Bush said in Jerusalem the National Intelligence Estimate does not mean the weapons program cannot easily be restarted, and that Iran will remain a threat unless the global community acts to prevent it from acquiring the material and know-how to build a weapon.