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Iran Calls US Sanctions an Interference

Iran's Foreign Ministry has accused the United States of interfering in Iranian affairs, in response to a new set of U.S. sanctions targeting Iranian officials for rights abuses.

Earlier this week, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an order freezing the assets of eight Iranian officials accused of cracking down on opposition demonstrators protesting against Iran's disputed presidential election.

Iranian state media quote Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying Friday that the action proves America supported the unrest that followed the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In announcing the sanctions Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted that the United States supports the rights of the Iranian people but has had no influence over the opposition movement.

Iran also summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran Thursday to protest the American move. The Islamic Republic has no diplomatic relations with the United States, and U.S. interests in Tehran are handled by the Swiss Embassy.

The sanctions order specifies that any assets the eight Iranians have in the U.S. are subject to seizure and bans Americans from doing business with anyone on the list, including Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari. The order says forces under his command participated in "beatings, murder and arbitrary arrests" of peaceful protesters following President Ahmadinejad's re-election in June of last year.

Secretary Clinton said this is the first time the United States has imposed sanctions on Iran for human rights violations.

Past measures have specifically targeted Iran's controversial nuclear program.

In the latest move, Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced new financial sanctions against a subsidiary of Iran's national oil company -- the Swiss-based Naftiran Intertrade Company.

The State Department said it will not be imposing sanctions on four large international companies that pledged to stop investing in Iran's energy sector. Those companies include Total of France, Statoil of Norway, ENI of Italy and Royal Dutch Shell of Britain and the Netherlands.

The United States and other world powers are trying to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear activities, which many believe are aimed at creating a weapon. Tehran denies the charge.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.