US extends Iran nuke sanctions relief, adds other sanctions

A ballistic missile is launched and tested in an undisclosed location Iran in this handout

The latest action against individuals and companies came on the same day as the Trump administration said it would continue to waive some sanctions against Iran, a key aspect of a deal over the country's nuclear programme negotiated by the Obama administration and five other world powers.

Trump, who is due to visit the Middle East next week, vowed to "tear up" the nuclear deal as a candidate but since taking office in January, the administration has upheld the agreement while reviewing USA policy and announcing a series of narrow sanctions that fall outside the accord.

The sanctions imposed on Iran for its ballistic missile program have targeted senior Iranian military officials in addition to an Iranian company and a network based in China that stands accused of supplying Iran with the wherewithal sufficient to produce ballistic missiles, said the US State Department.

Under the deal, the United States and five other world powers agreed to lift sanctions in exchange for Iran rolling back its nuclear program.

"The United States continues to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing USA sanctions-lifting commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action", the State Department said in a statement, referring to the deal by its formal name.

Although Trump continued ex-president Barack Obama's pact, which he has always been criticizing and ordered to review the deal, the USA has a tough position towards Islamic Republic.

In fact, it would violate a UN Security Council resolution and give Iran justification for resuming their nuclear weapons programme.

The timing is meant to show a hard stance on Iran - even as the administration continues to comply with the Iran nuclear deal.

In another attempt to ramp up pressure on Tehran, the State Department released a new report criticizing Iran for human-rights abuses, including its alleged mistreatment of prisoners.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and its foreign ministry on Thursday condemned the new United States sanctions and announced plans to impose its own against "nine USA individuals and companies".

During his presidential election campaign, Candidate Donald Trump vowed to "dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran".

As it now stands, all candidates have vowed to continue abiding by the JCPOA, including the frontrunning incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani and his closest contender, the hardline conservative cleric, Ibrahim Raisi.

Also on Wednesday, Iranian state media said four passenger airplanes were being delivered as the first installment of a deal with French-Italian manufacturer ATR that was finalized after the nuclear agreement.

The actions, set to take place on Wednesday, represent a significantly more aggressive approach to Iran than under the Obama administration but stop short of an all-out abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran and world powers including the USA and Russian Federation.

As contentious as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is in the US, it has been even more divisive in Iran.

Sherman said that Obama negotiators understood that the deal would only survive the next administration if the president believed the deal to be in the country's national security interest, and she argued that the deal's safeguards ensure that it is.

On his overseas trip, Mr Trump is likely to discuss issues involving Iran in Saudi Arabia and Israel.

But many Iranians are frustrated they haven't seen the benefits of the deal in terms of improved living standards.

The US also punished another Iranian official it said was involved in Iran's ballistic missile program, as well as Matin Sanat Nik Andishan, a company based in Iran that the US said helped obtain materials for the ballistic missile program.

Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown said the anti-racketeering indictment targets 44 members and associates of the gang, including the one-time leader of a Los Angeles faction of MS-13.

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