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WASHINGTON - A new push to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions by crippling the country's economy gathered momentum on Capitol Hill Wednesday with approval of legislation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee that would impose even tougher economic sanctions against Tehran.
And the Senate resolved that the United States should support Israel if it is forced to take military action to defend itself from an Iranian nuclear threat.
The U.S. and other world powers fear Iran's production and stockpiling of uranium enrichment is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its work is for peaceful purposes.
The House bill seeks to further curb Iran's oil exports, limit Tehran's access to overseas foreign currency reserves, and expand the list of blacklisted Iranian companies. Congress has slapped penalties on Iran four times since June 2010.
The committee's Nuclear Iran Prevention Act seeks to close any loopholes in existing sanctions and increase the pressure on Iran's leaders to give up their nuclear program.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate passed a non-binding resolution stating that, if Israel takes military action against Iran in a legitimate act of self-defence against Iran's nuclear weapons threat, the United States should provide military, diplomatic and economic support to Israel.
"This is a chance for the United States Senate to say, we also have Israel's back. and from my point of view, you can't separate the threat that the nuclear program in Iran creates from the United States and Israel," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sponsor of the resolution with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
The measure, passed 99-0, also supports the full implementation of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran and urges the president to continue to strengthen enforcement of sanctions.