WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House has delayed plans to slap new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile programme, a United States news report said on Thursday (Dec 31), amid fears it could jeopardise a hard-won nuclear deal with Teheran.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), quoting unnamed US officials, said that financial sanctions being developed by the US Treasury Department remain on the table, after the decision to delay them.
At one point they were scheduled to be announced Wednesday in Washington, the newspaper said, citing a notification the White House sent to Congress.
The officials gave no definitive timeline for when the sanctions would be imposed, it said.
The WSJ reported on Wednesday that the US was preparing fresh sanctions against companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates over alleged links to Teheran's ballistic missile programme.
Such a step by the Treasury Department could present a major barrier to the nuclear deal's implementation, let alone its durability, and come with relations between Teheran and Washington deteriorating once more.
They would be the first American sanctions against Iran since Teheran signed the nuclear deal with world powers in July that will eventually see Washington drop separate sanctions targeting that programme.
A senior administration official said in a statement to AFP that "we've been looking for some time at options for additional actions related to Iran's ballistic missile programme".
"We are considering various aspects related to additional designations, as well as evolving diplomatic work that is consistent with our national security interests."
Earlier on Thursday, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani denounced the possible new US penalties, calling them "hostile and illegal interventions" that justified a response.
In the five months since the nuclear deal curtailing Teheran's nuclear ambitions was struck, US officials say Iran has conducted two ballistic missile tests, one of which state media reported at the time, on Oct 11.