House committee OKs new penalties against Iran

By DONNA CASSATA | November 2, 2011 | 12:10 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee has approved new and tougher penalties against Iran, focusing on companies that do business with Tehran as well as its central bank.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved two bills aimed at clamping down on Iran's nuclear weapons program. The committee chairwoman, GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (ih-lay-AH'-nah rahs LAY'-tih-nehn) of Florida, says Iran's oil income and business indirectly benefit a government that sponsors terrorism.

The U.S. and the U.N. have imposed several rounds of penalties already because of widespread suspicions that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies that and says its program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (ah-muh-DEE'-neh-zhahd), has acknowledged that the current penalties were impeding Iran's financial institutions.