Signs of an expansion in Iran's oil trade have worried U.S. legislators seeking to pressure the nation over its nuclear program, the Associated Press reports.
Official figures indicate that China has boosted purchases of unrefined petroleum from Iran by almost 30 percent since November, when the Middle Eastern nation agreed to temporarily restrict some of its atomic activities in return for curbs on international sanctions, AP reported on Thursday. Some analyses pointed to a possible twofold increase in Iran's oil sales since last month, but U.S. government personnel reported a smaller rise.
Two U.S. lawmakers were set to discuss the new oil sales during a closed-door meeting on Thursday with Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and David Cohen, the Treasury Department under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, staffers for the legislators said.
Washington sees economic leverage as its most critical tool in a diplomatic bid to win longer-term restrictions on Iranian nuclear activities relevant to potential arms production. Tehran insists it has no military motivations for its atomic program.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration is monitoring Iran's oil sales "in keeping with the expectation that we have that all nations will abide by their commitments" under sanctions still in force.
Petroleum sales sometimes vary by month, and it is crucial to see if they rise "over a longer period of time," he said.
Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday said it has not developed an assessment containing additional findings on Iran's nuclear program, Reuters reported. The assertion came after Israel pressed the U.N. agency to disclose new details it reportedly gathered.
Gill Tudor, a spokeswoman for the U.N. nuclear agency, said her organization "has not prepared any report containing new information relating to possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program."