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U.S. Hits Iran With New Sanctions Over Nuclear, Missile Research Programs

Iran -- An undated handout picture provided by Iran Atomic Organisation on 21 October 2009 shows the Iranian research reactor located in Tehran.

The United States has hit Tehran with new sanctions, targeting 31 Iranian scientists, technicians, and companies it says have been involved in the country's nuclear and missile research and development programs.

In a statement on March 22, the U.S. State Department said the 14 individuals and 17 entities targeted are affiliated with Iran's Organization for Defense Innovation and Research.

It said the group is known by its Persian acronym SPND and was "established by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the head of the regime’s past nuclear weapons program."

Major Nuclear Facilities In Iran
Major Nuclear Facilities In Iran

President Donald Trump’s administration "continues to hold the Iranian regime accountable for activities that threaten the region’s stability and harm the Iranian people. This includes ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon,” the statement said.

The statement comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Beirut warning Lebanese officials to curb the influence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

Pompeo said Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and should not be allowed to set policies or wield power despite its presence in Lebanon's parliament and government.

The United States has urged the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran over its recent ballistic-missile test and the launches of two satellites, saying they violate UN resolutions.

On March 7, acting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen condemned what he called "Iran's destabilizing activities" in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Cohen called on Tehran "to cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."

The statement cited a 2015 UN resolution that "called upon" Iran to refrain for up to eight years from tests of ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

The United States has reimposed sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from a landmark 2015 agreement under which Tehran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump said that Tehran was not living up to the “spirit” of the accord because of its support of militants in the region and for continuing to test nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Tehran has denied it supports terrorist activity and says its missile and nuclear programs are strictly for civilian purposes.

With reporting by Reuters and AP