- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TEHRAN — Iran on Tuesday dismissed new U.S. sanctions, saying they are part of a “psychological war” meant to sow discontent among Iranians and insisting they would not halt the country’s nuclear program.

Washington ordered the new penalties Monday, giving U.S. banks additional powers to freeze assets linked to the Iranian government and close loopholes that officials say Iran has used to move money despite earlier restrictions imposed by the U.S. and Europe.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran’s nuclear program is geared toward producing an atomic bomb. Iran denies the charge, insisting its uranium enrichment program is only for peaceful purposes.

Rejecting the latest sanctions, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran’s Central Bank has no financial transactions with the United States and would not be affected.

“Many of these [U.S.] activities are in the sphere of psychological war and propaganda, and they cannot affect our work,” he told reporters in Tehran.

The stricter sanctions, authorized in legislation that President Obama signed in December, will be enforced under an order he signed Sunday. The measures target the Central Bank and its other financial institutions and are aimed at complicating the country’s ability to conduct international commerce.

Iranian lawmakers also are pushing ahead with a bill to cut off oil sales to Europe before a punitive EU embargo goes into effect.

The U.S. and Europe want to deprive Iran of the oil income it needs to run its government and pay for the nuclear program, but many experts think Iran will be able to find other buyers outside Europe.

Iran has acknowledged that its labs have enriched uranium up to 20 percent. That’s a significantly higher concentration than the nation’s main stockpile, and it can be turned into weapons-grade material more quickly than the lower-grade enriched uranium.

Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament summoned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for questioning about a long list of accusations, including that he mismanaged the nation’s economy.

It is the first summons of its kind for an Iranian president since 1979. It follows a petition by a parliamentary committee and is part of a power struggle ahead of March parliamentary elections.

Mohammad Reza Bahnoar, the deputy speaker, said Tuesday that lawmakers are demanding that Mr. Ahmadinejad answer questions on the economy, including purportedly bypassing a special budget for the Tehran subway and public transportation.

He also is to be asked about foreign and domestic policy decisions.

The summons will be sent to Mr. Ahmadinejad this week. The president must appear in parliament after one month.

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