US freezes Iranian assets over nuclear concerns


The US has imposed sanctions on two Iranian companies it has accused of aiding the country's atomic ambitions.

Two affiliates of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) have been targeted under a US presidential executive order that allows US citizens' or firms' assets to be blocked or frozen.

The US State Department has not said what, if any, specific ties the two firms, the Novin Energy Company and the Mesbah Energy Company, have with US companies or individuals.

Spokesman Justin Higgins says they both meet the criteria for designation because they are owned by, controlled by or purport to work on behalf of the AEOI.

"Novin has transferred millions of dollars on behalf of the AEOI to entities associated with Iran's nuclear program and operates largely from within the AEOI, including sharing the same address," he said.

Mr Higgins says Mesbah is a state-owned company that functions as a front for the Iranian agency.

Mr Bush signed the executive order last June to give the US government what officials called an important new tool in the effort to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

It gave the US Treasury Department the power to freeze assets and effectively deny US market access to designated weapons or missile proliferators, including foreign banks and entities that do business with them.

The latest move comes after Iran announced plans to resume nuclear research and development next week, defying US and European demands.

Britain, France and Germany have been trying to resolve the nuclear conflict diplomatically with US backing but Iran has increasingly turned its back on this process.

A leaked European intelligence report yesterday described Iran as combing Europe and ex-Soviet states for materials and expertise, potentially useful for making atom bombs.