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US House votes to slap sanctions on Russia, Iran, N. Korea

Washington, United States | AFP | The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to impose tough new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia, a move that will antagonize the Kremlin as well as European nations fearing economic ramifications.

The measure notably constrains President Donald Trump’s ability to waive the penalties.

The sanctions package, which passed 419 to three after weeks of negotiations, “tightens the screws on our most dangerous adversaries in order to keep Americans safe,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said after the vote.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where there is support for sanctions but debate about whether to include penalties on North Korea.

The legislation is the result of a congressional compromise reached last weekend and is aimed at punishing the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has invaded its neighbor Ukraine, seizing its territory and destabilizing its government,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said in applauding passage.

“Left unchecked, Russia is sure to continue its aggression.”

But the bill could end up penalizing European firms that contribute to the development of Russia’s energy sector.

New sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which stands accused of supporting terrorism, and North Korea, for its missile tests, are also included in the bill.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps accused of supporting terrorism.

Key among the provisions is one that handcuffs the US president by complicating any of the leader’s unilateral efforts to ease penalties against Moscow in the future — effectively placing him under Congress’s watch.

Trump has faced accusations that his administration had sought to reassure Moscow that sanctions imposed near the end of the Obama administration could be lifted under a President Trump.

Initially, Trump resisted the legislation. But faced with near-total consensus among Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the White House blinked, but did not say directly that the billionaire president would sign it into law.

“While the President supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the president’s desk,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

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