WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US Senate has called for Iran's Revolutionary Guards to be officially designated a "foreign terrorist organization," a day after the House of Representatives passed a similar measure.
The Senate on Wednesday voted 76-22 for the non-binding amendment sponsored by Republican Jon Kyl and independent Joseph Lieberman to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, on the US terrorist blacklist.
Such a designation if adopted by the US government would open the corps and affiliated companies to economic sanctions.
The measure is a "sense of the Senate" amendment, which means it cannot impact the president's foreign policy, but is an important symbolic measure expressing will of lawmakers.
It says that senators agree it is in the critical national interest of the United States to prevent Iran turning Shia extremists in Iraq into a "Hezbollah type force."
The amendment says that senators believe that "inside Iraq" US economic, military, diplomatic economic and intelligence "instruments" should be used to back US policy against the government of Iran and "its proxies."
US military officials and lawmakers have accused the Revolutionary Guard of arming Shiite militias in Iraq, and supplying sophisticated roadside bombs used to kill US soldiers in the war-torn nation.
The US administration also accuses Iran of seeking to build an atomic bomb under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, a charge Tehran denies.
During a debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls on Wednesday night, the amendment was criticized as helping lay the foundation for President George W. Bush to take possible military action against Tehran.
"I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step on a road to war with Iran," said former senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards at the debate at Dartmouth College.
Long-shot candidate Mike Gravel blasted front-runner Senator Hillary Clinton for supporting the amendment. "And I am ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it."
Clinton defended her vote, saying by designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization "gives us the options to be able to impose sanctions on the primary leaders to try to begin to put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran."
The Bush administration said in August it would designate all or part of the Guard as a terrorist organization.
The US blacklist, which already includes Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, bars named groups from gaining access to the US financial system.
The House of Representatives adopted a similar text on Tuesday against the backdrop of rising tensions between Iran and the United States and a scathing attack on the United States by Iran's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before the UN General Assembly.
The House bill also calls for penalizing foreign companies with US subsidiaries which invest in Iran, particularly in the oil and gas sector.
Iran has been on the US government state sponsors of terrorism blacklist for more than two decades.
Already this year, the US government escalated financial sanctions against Tehran.
The US Treasury and other government agencies have blacklisted and applied asset freezes against at least 15 Iranian entities.
Most, including the Atomic Energy Organization and the Mesbah Energy Company, operate in the nuclear, energy and industrial industries.
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