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Senate action on Iran sanctions urged

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land and 45 other Christian leaders asked the U.S. Senate Jan. 26 to follow the example of the House of Representatives by passing stronger sanctions on oil-related imports to Iran.

The coalition, Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-free Iran, hopes such sanctions will help deter the extremist Islamic regime in Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

The House passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act by a 412-12 vote Dec. 15. The bill, H.R. 2194, calls for the imposition of sanctions on anyone who knowingly enables Iran to continue or increase its domestic oil production or who aids in the importation of oil products to the southwest Asian country.

“The House vote was an overwhelming display of American unity against a nuclear-armed Iran, demonstrating that President Obama has the firm bipartisan support he needs to show the Iranian regime that we are serious,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Now is the time for the Senate to show similar resolve, strength and unity.”

In the letter to all 100 senators, the coalition of Christian leaders called for quick action, because talks with Iran have proven fruitless.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in late November negotiations with Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons are at a “dead end,” according to The Wall Street Journal. There is evidence Iran is able to produce low-enriched uranium and has tested missiles.

“A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders,” the Jan. 26 letter said.

Calling Iran the “world’s leading state sponsor of international terror,” the signers said they “must assume” the regime will provide nuclear weapons “to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.”

In addition to supporting terrorist organizations in other countries, Iran oppresses its own citizens’ rights. Tehran “is currently arresting and detaining political opponents, actively persecutes its Christian citizens, [and] has shot protestors in cold blood in the streets,” according to the letter.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been especially provocative toward Israel, denying the Holocaust and threatening to destroy the Jewish state

The letter was nearly identical to one sent by Land and 33 of the same signers Dec. 10 to Senate and House leaders in both parties.

Iran is one of only eight countries classified by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern,” a designation reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious liberty.

In addition to Land, other Southern Baptist signers of the most recent letter were former Southern Baptist Convention presidents Jack Graham and James Merritt, as well as former North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord and conservative resurgence leader Paul Pressler.

Additional signers included Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America; Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family; Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel; and Jordan Sekulow, director of international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.