US slaps fresh sanctions on Iran

The United States is targeting Iran's steel sector with sanctions, as the administration of President Donald Trump ramps up pressure on the Middle Eastern nation.

Washington is slapping sanctions on firms including 12 Iranian producers of steel and other metals, as well as a China-based company it says supplies steelmaking materials to Iran.

The US Department of the Treasury announced the move in a statement on Tuesday, saying it wants to deprive Iran of revenues for activities such as the "proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" and "support for foreign terrorist groups."

Under the sanctions, all assets of the blacklisted companies in the US will be blocked. Transactions with US financial firms will also be prohibited.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement, "The Trump administration remains committed to denying revenue flowing to the Iranian regime as it continues to sponsor terrorist groups, support oppressive regimes, and seek weapons of mass destruction."

The Trump administration has been stepping up sanctions on Iran aiming to economically isolate the country as it resumes enriching uranium to 20-percent purity. Twenty-percent enrichment significantly violates a 2015 nuclear deal with major powers.

Observers are focusing on how President-elect Joe Biden will deal with the issue after he takes office on January 20.