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US House passes Iran sanctions, financial services measures

The House on Wednesday passed a bill to bar the US purchase of heavy water.

People silhouetted in a large American flag at a rally following Super Tuesday on 2 March 2016 in New York City. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON - The US House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation linked to the international nuclear agreement with Iran on Thursday, one year after the landmark pact was announced, defying President Barack Obama's veto threat.

Voting largely along party lines, the Republican-controlled House voted 246 to 179 to pass a new set of sanctions on Iran, and 246 to 181 for a measure to block Iran's access to the US financial system, including use of the dollar.

The House on Wednesday passed a bill to bar the US purchase of "heavy water," also with little backing from Democrats.

Heavy water is a non-radioactive byproduct from making nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. The Obama administration said in April the United States would buy $8.6 million worth of heavy water from Iran, angering Republicans who called it a subsidy of the country's nuclear programme.

The measures were among the last the House passed before Congress left Washington for a seven-week summer recess. There was no word on when, or whether, the measures would be taken up in the Senate.

Every congressional Republican, and several of Obama's fellow Democrats, opposed the nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and other world powers announced in July 2015 in which Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from crippling international sanctions.

Since then, Republicans have repeatedly offered sanctions bills and other Iran-related legislation that Democrats dismiss as bids to score political points by undermining a deal seen as a potential foreign policy legacy for Obama.

Republicans say they want to punish Iran for actions including its ballistic missile tests and send a strong message that Tehran should abide by its international commitments.

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