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US slaps new sanctions on Iran over missile test

The Trump administration has issued new sanctions on Iranian nationals and entities, in a clear hardening of policy towards Tehran. Days earlier, Washington threatened Iran over its latest ballistic missile test.

Washington added 13 individuals and 12 entities to its Iran sanctions authority list, the US Treasury said on its website on Friday.

The decision came days after the White House put Tehran "on notice" over Sunday's test of a medium-range ballistic missile, and for supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen.

Some of the entities listed are based in the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and China, and the sanctions affect nationals of those countries as well as Iran.

"Iran's continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States," said John Smith, acting director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

US President Donald Trump has signaled that he will take a tougher tone with Tehran, tweeting on Friday that they were "playing with fire," and that the Obama administration had been too "kind."

No US business dealings

Friday's move freezes any assets the sanctioned parties might have in US banks and prohibits US companies and people from doing business with them.

Among those sanctioned were companies, individuals, and brokers Washington said support a trade
network run by an Iranian businessman, Abdollah Asgharzadeh.

A Lebanon-based network was also targeted which the US Treasury said was run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite military body that is also powerful in Iranian politics and the economy.

'Iran won't start a war'

Ahead of the new sanctions, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Tehran was "unmoved by threats," adding that "we'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense."

Iran has test-fired several ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal in 2015, but the latest test was the first since Trump became president.

The new sanctions come just a year after international sanctions were lifted following a landmark deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. 

None of the new restrictions appear to reverse the lifting of sanctions as part of that deal. Nevertheless, the action will almost surely increase tensions with Tehran.

Iran insists it has the right to conduct ballistic missile tests now that its nuclear program has been curtailed.

"The amateur and irrational policies of the new US administration will change nothing about the principles of Iranian politics," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Responding to news of the sanctions, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he "understood" Washington's reaction, adding that "clearly, these missile tests violate all relevant UN Security Council resolutions."

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mm/sms/jbh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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