The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation punishing foreign companies that sell gasoline to Iran, placing further pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.
The U.S. House of Representatives already passed the measure earlier this month. The bill bars companies that sell Iran fuel to also hold contracts with the U.S. Energy Department to supply the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The measure, which is part of an energy spending bill, must be signed into law by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Despite being a major oil producer, Iran imports 40 percent of its gasoline.
The U.S. Congress and President Obama fear Iran is enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.
On Thursday, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said his panel will bring up a measure that prohibits any non-U.S. company selling gasoline to Iran or helping its imports from doing business in the United States.
Representative Howard Berman, a Democrat from the western state of California, says the bill, which will be considered October 28, gives President Obama the full range of tools to address the "looming nuclear threat from Iran."
Similar legislation is being considered in the U.S. Senate and will likely be part of a comprehensive Iran sanctions measure proposed by Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd.
In other news, the families of three Americans detained in Iran for nearly three months have submitted a petition for their release to the Iranian mission at the United Nations.
Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd apparently strayed across the Iranian border while hiking in northern Iraq's Kurdistan region in late July.
The petition with 2,500 signatures expresses "deep hope" that Iran will show compassion in the "unfortunate case" and release the three as soon as possible.
The hikers were visited by the Swiss ambassador to Iran in late September but have not had contact with their families.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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