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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Chinese and other companies it says helped sell tens of millions of dollars worth of Iranian oil and petrochemicals to East Asia while that they seek to put pressure on Tehran to curb its nuclear program.

The US Treasury and US State Department imposed sanctions on a total of six companies, four based in Hong Kong, one in Singapore and one in the United Arab Emirates in actions that were announced in separate statements.

The Treasury has accused Arabian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co., one of Iran’s largest petrochemical brokers, of using the companies to facilitate the sale of Iranian oil and petrochemicals in East Asia.

Treasury has targeted UAE-based Blue Cactus Heavy Equipment and Machinery Spare Parts Trading LLC, which it says helped sell millions of dollars of Iranian-sourced petroleum products to Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd., based in Hong Kong, which has already been sanctioned by the US.

It also targeted Hong Kong-based Farwell Canyon HK Limited and Shekufei International Trading Co., Limited to facilitate these sales for shipment to buyers in East Asia.

The Treasury accused PGPICC of using the companies’ bank accounts, as well as those of PZNFR Trading Limited, based in Hong Kong and Malaysia, to collect millions of dollars in revenue.

Separately, the State Department sanctioned Singapore-based Pioneer Ship Management PTE LTD for allegedly managing a vessel carrying Iranian petroleum products and Hong Kong-based Golden Warrior Shipping, Co. Ltd. for alleged transactions related to Iranian oil and petroleum products.

The actions freeze US-based assets and generally prevent Americans from doing business with them. Others who engage in certain transactions with the targeted companies also risk being sanctioned.

The moves represent the third round of Iran-related U.S. sanctions against Chinese companies in the past two months.

Since taking office in 2021, US President Joe Biden has balked at sanctioning Chinese entities engaged in oil trade with Iran in hopes of securing a deal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Efforts to resuscitate the deal – under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from US and other sanctions – have so far failed, leading Washington to look for other ways to increase the pressure on Tehran.

“The United States continues to follow the path of diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” said Brian Nelson, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Intelligence. financier, in the press release, referring to the 2015 agreement by its official name.

“Until Iran is ready to return to full implementation of its commitments, we will continue to apply sanctions against the illicit sale of Iranian oil and petrochemicals.”

Reacting to the new sanctions, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said in a statement that Iran would respond “decisively and firmly” to the White House’s continued sanctions.

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