U.S. shutdown hurts enforcement of Iran, Syria sanctions -W.House

Reuters

WASHINGTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. government shutdownis hindering enforcement of sanctions against Iran and Syriabecause of worker furloughs at the Treasury Department officeresponsible for handling the punitive measures, the White Housesaid on Friday.

Highlighting one of the damaging effects of the fiscalstandoff to try to pressure Republicans to give ground, WhiteHouse spokesman Jay Carney said the shutdown had reducedstaffing at Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to 11employees from a normal contingent of 175.

The comments came as the Obama administration's diplomaticengagement with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has put a focus on U.S. sanctions, which are widely seen as having damagedIran's economy enough to force Tehran back to the negotiatingtable.

The White House has sought to cast blame on Republicans forbringing much of the government to a standstill by seeking todefund or delay President Barack Obama's healthcare program as acondition of allowing a vote on spending that would reopen thegovernment. House of Representatives Republicans accuse Obama ofintransigence and not caring about the shutdown's effects.

Obama was to be briefed by top aides on Friday on the impactof the four-day-old shutdown, including how furloughs have hurtthe Office of Foreign Assets Control.

"The office is unable to sustain its core functions," Carneytold reporters at the daily White House briefing. "That is anegative consequence of this wholly unnecessary decision by theHouse Republicans to shut down the government."

The office's tasks include "issuing new sanctionsdesignations against those enabling the governments of Iran andSyria, as well as terrorist organizations, WMD (weapons of massdestruction) proliferators, narcotics cartels, and transnationalorganized crime groups," Carney said.

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