WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is levelling new sanctions on banks in China and Iraq that the White House says have helped Iran evade international sanctions.
The new penalties target China's Bank of Kunlun and Iraq's Elaf Islamic Bank. In a statement, Obama says the sanctions make clear that the U.S. will expose any financial institution that assists "the increasingly desperate Iranian regime" to access the international financial system.
Obama is also expanding sanctions on the purchase or acquisition of Iranian petrochemical products. The sanctions are authorized in part for those who provide support to the National Iranian Oil Company and the Central Bank of Iran.
The election year announcement comes as Obama aims to show he is being tough on Iran amid criticism from Republican rival Mitt Romney.