New U.S. sanctions target Iran's petrochemical industry

The United States targeted Iran's petrochemical industry in new sanctions imposed, including the country's largest petrochemical holding group over its financial support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Treasury Department said.

The new sanctions come as Washington keeps up pressure against Iran over its ballistic missile program and for waging proxy wars in other Middle Eastern countries.

The sanctions target Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC) for providing financial support the economic arm of the IRGC, Iran's elite military unit in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Treasury also designated the holding group's network of 39 subsidiary petrochemical companies and foreign-based sales agents. PGPIC and its subsidiaries hold 40% of Iran’s petrochemical production capacity and are responsible for 50% of Iran’s total petrochemical exports, it said.

"By targeting this network we intend to deny funding to key elements of Iran's petrochemical sector that provide support to the IRGC," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury statement said Iran's oil ministry last year awarded the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya, the IRGC's economic and engineering arm, 10 projects in oil and petrochemical industries worth $22 billion, four times the official budget of the IRGC.

The United States in April officially designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. U.S. law already punished U.S. persons who deal with the IRGC with up to 20 years in prison because of the group’s designation under the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, a different sanctions program.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey, Editing by Susan Thoams)

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