The legislation would authorize funding for groups pressing for democratic reform, human rights, and civil liberties in Iran.However, it requires that such groups also oppose the use of terrorism, a provision linked to the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, still officially listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
A U.S. congressional committee has approved legislation seeking to strengthen existing U.S. sanctions on Iran and put more pressure on Iran's government on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, while providing greater support for Iranian democracy groups.
The Iran Freedom Support Act declares it should be U.S. policy to support human rights and pro-democracy forces in the United States and abroad opposing what it calls the non-democratic government of Iran.
The bill, whose authors say is supported by some 140 House members, was approved Wednesday by the House Middle East Subcommittee chaired by Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "Iran is the full ticket. It has medium and long-range missile programs, it is believed to have (a) chemical and biological weapons program, it is pursuing nuclear capabilities, it remains the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world," he said.
The legislation codifies existing sanctions against Iran, under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, and includes stricter provisions regarding the waiving of sanctions by the president, and requirements for investigations of suspected investments in Iran.
As before, sanctions would remain until the president certifies Tehran has dismantled weapons of mass destruction programs and commits to combating proliferation of such weapons.
The bill also threatens to withhold foreign assistance from countries investing in Iran's energy sector by defining this as direct support for Iran's regime.
The legislation would authorize funding for groups pressing for democratic reform, human rights, and civil liberties in Iran.
However, it requires that such groups also oppose the use of terrorism, a provision linked to the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, still officially listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen cautions there will be strict standards for assistance, adding in her words, it is not that you can just re-invent yourself as a pro-democracy group in order to get funding.
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