U.S. expands sanctions on Iran

Monday, August 18, 2003

The United States has expanded sanctions on a leading Iranian opposition group.

The State Department has designated two political fronts of the Mujahadeen Khalq as terrorist organizations. Mujahadeen was placed on the department's list of terrorist organizations in 1997.

The action allowed federal authorities to close the offices of two organizations aligned with the Mujahadeen and seize their assets. About $100,000 in assets were found and seized.

Secretary of State Colin Powell amended the designation of the Mujahadeen Khalq as a foreign terrorist organization to include what officials termed two of the group's aliases. They were identified as the National Council of Resistance and National Council of Resistance of Iran, Middle East Newsline reported.

The groups are located in Washington and have been active in lobbying the U.S. Congress.

Officials said Powell cited Executive Order 1322, which allows the secretary of state to designate foreign entities and individuals as posing significant risks for U.S. national security. They did not specify the threat.

"The action to amend the Executive Order 13224 designation of the MEK [Mujahadeen Khalq] to include NCR and NCRI is based on information from a variety of sources that those entities functioned as part of the MEK and have supported the MEK's acts of terrorism," State Department acting spokesman Tom Casey said.

Officials said the State Department's designation came after consultations with congressional leaders. The Mujahadeen attacked U.S. interests in Iran during the period of the Shah of Iran in the mid-1970s. In the 1980s, Mujhadeen were harbored and supported by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

In November 2002, more than 100 House members signed a letter that urged the State Department to remove the Mujhadeen Khalq from the terror list. There was no outcry from Congress to last week's closure of the two Washington offices of the Iranian opposition.

In August 2002, the National Council disclosed two secret Iranian nuclear facilities. The United States later confirmed the sites and inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency toured the Natanz facility in February 2003.

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