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US blacklists five UAE-based companies for doing business with Iran

Despite coronavirus outbreak, Washington has vowed to continue its 'maximum pressure' campaign against Tehran
Coronavirus has killed more than 1,200 people in Iran (Reuters/File photo)
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Washington

The United States has imposed sanctions on five companies based in the United Arab Emirates over facilitating the sale of Iranian oil and petrochemicals in another round of measures targeting the coronavirus-hit Islamic Republic.

The US Treasury Department announced on Thursday that it is blacklisting the firms for buying "hundreds of thousands of metric tons of petroleum products from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC)".

The targeted companies are Ras Al Khaimah-based Petro Grand FZE and Dubai-based Alphabet International DMCC, Swissol Trade DMCC, Alam Althrwa General Trading LLC and Alwaneo LLC.

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The Treasury said the purchases made by the companies contributed to the funding of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF), which coordinates Iran's foreign military activities with its regional allies.

"The Iranian regime uses revenues from petroleum and petrochemical sales to fund its terrorist proxies, like the IRGC-QF, instead of the health and well-being of the Iranian people," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. 

"The Trump Administration will continue to target and isolate those who support the Iranian regime and remains committed to facilitating humanitarian trade and assistance in support of the Iranian people."

The Treasury designation bars US citizens from doing business with the targeted companies and blocks the companies' assets in the United States.

The UAE is among Iran's most outspoken foes in the region, but the two countries remain strong trade partners despite the political rhetoric.

Choke Iranian economy

The latest round of US sanctions comes as Washington intensifies efforts to choke the Iranian economy despite a massive coronavirus outbreak in the country that has killed more than 1,200 people.

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The administration of President Donald Trump has resisted calls for freezing sanction against Iran to allow it to deal with the deadly disease, instead imposing additional measures against the Iranian economy in the midst of the crisis.

On Wednesday, Washington also targeted several companies and individuals with sanctions for facilitating the sale of Iranian oil and petrochemicals.

While the US measures do not extend to Iran's medical sector, Human Rights Watch explained in a report last year that sanctions deter global financial institutions from dealing with the Islamic Republic impeding the import of medicine and medical equipment.