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Christopher Pointing Way to Showdown on Iran Policy

April 1, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration, with a hawkish Secretary of State Warren Christopher setting the pace, is nearing critical decisions on stronger economic actions against Iran.

Options under consideration include banning all American trade with Iran and prohibiting American oil companies from purchasing Iranian oil for sale abroad. Sale of Iranian oil in the United States already is prohibited.

Christopher has labeled Iran an ``evil hand,″ denouncing it as the leading supporter of terrorism in the world and the most active opponent of the Arab-Israel peace he is pursing as a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.

However, even with the likely support of Anthony Lake, the national security adviser to President Clinton, Christopher is not certain to carry the day when senior policy makers gather in the next week or two at the White House to consider stronger economic measures against Tehran.

Strong voices within the administration, including the Commerce Department, are concerned tougher restraints on trade with Iran could hurt American businesses that export there.

While direct purchases of Iranian oil for the U.S. market are prohibited now, subsidiaries of American companies are buying about $4 billion of it annually on the open market. In addition, U.S. exports to Iran _ much of it oilfield equipment _ totaled $616 million in 1993, according to Commerce Department figures.

``There are good arguments on all sides,″ a senior U.S. official told The Associated Press Friday. ``The issues are on the table and they are moving toward resolution in the next week or two.″

Christopher led the charge against a $1 billion oil-development contract Conoco signed with Iran. President Clinton issued an order in March banning the deal after Christopher, upon learning that Conoco had hired his Los Angeles law firm to represent it, recused himself from the discussions.

There have been at least two meetings recently of officials from the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State, Commerce and Energy departments and other interested agencies to weigh further moves against Iran.

Meanwhile, Sen. Alfonse D`Amato, R-N.Y., has proposed legislation to ban all U.S. trade with Iran.

Provisions of D’Amato’s legislation may be incorporated in an executive order from Clinton _ if the decision is taken to step up the pressure on Iran _ said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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