Washington, DC -- Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today condemned the order announced by Iranian President Ahmadinejad to begin enriching uranium to 20%, ostensibly to fuel a medical research reactor. With uranium in this form it is significantly easier to continue the enrichment process to a weapons level of 80% or more.

“With this move Iran is only escalating the situation over its nuclear activities into a crisis,” Berman said. “It should be abundantly clear to all that Tehran is not interested in a diplomatic resolution on anything other than its own terms, which will inevitably lead to a nuclear weapons capability. This is another reason for the U.N. Security Council to act swiftly so that strong sanctions can placed on Tehran. As Congress moves toward sending a sanctions bill to the White House, we will be very focused on the international community’s response to Iran’s rejection of any diplomatic resolution of this issue.”

Both the House and Senate have passed legislation that would impose sanctions to deter Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. The House measure (H.R. 2194), approved 412-12 in mid-December, would sanction foreign companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran, or help Iran with its own domestic refining capacity, by depriving those companies of access to the U.S. market.

When he brought the legislation to the Foreign Affairs Committee for consideration in October, Berman noted that he would prefer to see other diplomatic measures succeed – including engagement by the Obama Administration and, if needed, multilateral sanctions -- rather than have the United States impose sanctions unilaterally.

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