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Treasury Secretary vows more economic sanctions on Iran

JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledged Monday to increase sanctions against Iran, saying the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” is halting alleged Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

Mnuchin met Monday in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called on Washington to impose additional sanctions to halt what he called Iran’s “plunge for everything” in the region.

Israel considers Iran its greatest threat, citing Iran’s support for hostile proxy groups, its development of long-range missiles and its military presence in neighboring Syria. It also accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons — a charge Iran denies. Israel frequently attacks Iranian targets in Syria and is believed to have expanded its strikes into Lebanon and Iraq in recent months.

At a joint press conference, Netanyahu said Iran’s ability to project power in the region “is diminished to the extent that you can tighten your sanctions and make the availability of cash more difficult for them.”

Later Monday, Netanyahu also claimed that Iran is trying to place precision-guided missiles throughout the region, including Yemen, with the aim of harming Israel.

“Iran wants to use Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen as bases to attack Israel,” he told a gathering of Jewish leaders from abroad.

Mnuchin said American sanctions seek to counter the threats Iran poses in the region, and that the administration “will continue to ramp up more, more, more.” He gave no indication of what form those new sanctions might take or when they could materialize.

“We are not doing this to hurt the people of Iran, we are doing this so that Iran stops their bad activities and exporting terrorism, looking to create nuclear capabilities, and missiles,” Mnuchin said.

The U.S. withdrew last year from the international nuclear deal with Iran and has already imposed a series of sanctions on Iran’s vital oil industry.

The sanctions limit Iran’s ability to sell oil abroad and have crippled the country’s economy. In response, Iran announced earlier this year that it would no longer comply with the nuclear deal’s restrictions.

Mnuchin’s visit to Israel is the first stop on a tour of the Middle East and India to discuss economic ties and counterterrorism initiatives.

He was joined by U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with Netanyahu and his key rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz.

Kushner is the chief architect of the Trump administration’s still-unreleased Mideast peace plan. Kushner has not said when the plan will be unveiled.

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