20:35 GMT25 January 2021
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    Sigal Mandelker, under-secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said she would stress the inherent risks in dealing with Iran in meetings over the coming days with government officials in Malaysia, Singapore and India, Reuters reported Thursday.

    According to Mandelker, Washington has raised concerns over an alleged illicit shipment of Iranian oil with Malaysia and Singapore.

    On Tuesday, the US Department of the Treasury sanctioned 25 Middle Eastern entities and individuals over their alleged involvement in trading and funding Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other Iranian military units.

    The Treasury Department explained that the IRGC-controlled Ansar Bank and the bank’s currency exchange arm served as the hub for a regional network with layers of intermediary entities allowing devalued Iranian rials to be exchanged for dollars and euros.

    READ MORE: Israel Has Full 'Freedom of Action' in Countering Iran in Syria – Netanyahu

    The US sanctions against Tehran were reinstated last year after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, which envisaged the relief of economic sanctions against Tehran in return for Iran's pledge to keep its nuclear programme peaceful.

    China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, the other signatories to the deal, have slammed the move, with the latter later setting up a special mechanism to bypass the sanctions. The EU initiative provoked harsh criticism from Washington, who continues to call for a wind-down of Iranian oil imports and any business with the country.

    In early November, Washington granted six-month waivers from oil sanctions on Tehran to eight countries that are dependent on Iranian energy imports.

    Last month, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said that the United States, however, wanted to get to zero imports of Iranian oil as soon as possible and, therefore, would not provide exemptions from sanctions for companies and countries that are involved in cooperation with Iran.

    READ MORE: Cargo Ship Transporting Chemical Agents Capsizes in Iran — Reports

    Meanwhile, Mandelker also said Friday, cited by Reuters, that Washington would bring "maximum pressure" on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

    Tensions in Venezuela escalated on 23 January, when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself an "interim president", disputing President Nicolas Maduro's re-election last year. While the United States has openly backed Guaido, the European Union did not issue a joint statement following suit because the motion was vetoed by Italy, according to a diplomatic source. Despite this, however, many European countries have individually voiced their support for the Venezuelan opposition leader.

    Russia, China, Mexico, among other nations, have voiced support for constitutionally elected Maduro, who, in turn, has accused Washington of orchestrating an attempted coup with Guaido's help.

    The US Treasury has since January imposed several rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan state companies, such as PDVSA. US National Security Advisor John Bolton said last week that Washington has yet to impose its toughest sanctions against the government of Maduro.

    READ MORE: Venezuela's Power Grid Suffered From 4 Massive Attacks in March — Caracas


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    oil shipments, pressure, sanctions, US Treasury Department, Sigal Mandelker, Iran, US
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