Iran/Libya sanctions bill pending before White House

The US Congress Thursday sent President George W. Bush a bill to extend for 5 years economic sanctions against companies and countries that do business with Iran and Libya. Supporters of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act are hopeful the president will sign the measure, although his administration had wanted only a 2-year extension. White House officials could not be reached for comment.


Maureen Lorenzetti
OGJ Online

WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 3 -- The US Congress Thursday sent President George W. Bush a bill to extend for 5 years economic sanctions against companies and countries that do business with Iran and Libya.

Supporters of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act are hopeful the president will sign the measure, although his administration had wanted only a 2-year extension. White House officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The administration had argued, "Sanctions should be reviewed frequently to assess their effectiveness and continued suitability."

Congress passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 1996 to punish those nations for their support of terrorist activities. It expires Aug. 5 (OGJ Online, July 27, 2001).

The strongest supporters of the legislation include families of the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing. Those families blame terrorists groups supported by Libya for the 1988 incident. Spokesmen from those families told OGJ Online they did not expect the White House to publicize passage of the new bill, if indeed it gets signed.

"We are not assuming it gets signed. This administration has not been supportive of our efforts," said Susan Cohen of Justice for Pan Am 103, who lost a daughter in the crash and whose group has actively lobbied Congress to extend the law.

Congressional sources said the families' concerns are unfounded, although they conceded there is always a possibility the White House could elect to veto the proposal. However, that outcome is considered highly unlikely. The White House knows that some kind of sanctions bill would likely still become law because the pending extension passed by overwhelming margins in both the House and Senate, allowing Congress to override the president's action if necessary.

The US has not applied the sanctions yet to any company, but has said they have been an effective deterrent to investment.

In the unlikely event a veto did occur, sanctions under the current law would expire, theoretically giving foreign countries a window of opportunity until Congress returned from a month-long recess that is expected to start this weekend.

But industry officials say that for all practical purposes, renewing the bill after the deadline would not have much effect anyway. That's because Congress would likely incorporate in new legislation any investment made after the current law expired. And in the final analysis, the argument is more academic than practical.

The revised proposed law allows the US to apply sanctions against any company investing more than $20 million/year in the energy production of either nation. Many other countries, especially those with international energy companies, oppose the US sanctions.

The bill also has a nonbinding provision that calls on Congress to consider rescinding the law sooner pending the outcome of a White House sanctions report.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) July 24 in a letter to pro-industry lawmaker Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, pledged to expedite a future vote, provided the White House recommends ILSA is bad policy at some future date.

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