In its latest bid to press Iran to halt its uranium production, the US is planning to impose strong and immediate new sanctions against Tehran that will target its elite Revolutionary Guards, the military force believed to run the clandestine nuclear weapons effort.

The Obama administration, which has completed a fresh review of Iran’s nuclear progress, said current troubles “give us a window to impose the first sanctions that may make the Iranians think the nuclear programme isn’t worth the price tag.”

“The long-discussed sanctions would initiate the latest phase in a strategy to force Iran to comply with UN demands to halt production of nuclear fuel,” The New York Times on Sunday reported citing unnamed officials.

This time, the White House wants to focus the new sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps because it wants to avoid angering Iranians protesting in the streets by depriving them of Western goods, the report said.

The US is planning to go ahead with the new sanctions despite acknowledging that three previous rounds of restrictions have failed to deter Iran.

The administration also aims to get Arab and Asian nations to join Europe in cutting off financial transactions with front companies for the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran dismissed an end-of-2009 deadline imposed by the US and the West to accept a UN-drafted deal to swap most of its enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.

It came up with a counterproposal, asking the West either sell nuclear fuel to Iran, or swap its nuclear fuel for Iran’s enriched uranium in smaller batches instead of at once as the UN plan calls for.

The White House has said Iran was “standing in its own way” by imposing an ultimatum on world powers to accept its version of a deal to defuse the building nuclear showdown.

“The IAEA has a balanced proposal on the table that would fulfil Iran’s own request for fuel, and has the backing of the international community,” Hammer said.

“If getting access to fuel is Iran’s objective, then there is absolutely no reason why the existing proposal, which Iran accepted in principle at Geneva, is insufficient. The Iranian government is standing in its own way, he added”

Three months ago, Iran’s delay in disclosing the country’s secret enrichment plant under construction near the holy city of Qum had concerned Western powers.

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