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DATE=3/14/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=U-S - RUSSIA - IRAN (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-260199 BYLINE=DEBORAH TATE DATELINE=WHITE HOUSE CONTENT= INTERNET=YES INTRO: President Clinton has signed into law a measure aimed at punishing Russia and other countries if they help Iran acquire weapons of mass destruction. Correspondent Deborah Tate reports from the White House. Text: The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 - which was passed by the Senate last month after it was approved by the House last year - gives the United States the discretionary authority to impose sanctions on any country that gives nuclear, chemical or biological weapons technology or equipment to Iran. For example, the new law bars the United States from making `extraordinary payments' to Russia's space agency for the International Space Station project unless Washington confirms that Moscow has not transferred nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or technology to Tehran during the previous year. The Clinton administration has proposed paying 650 million dollars above the original amount pledged for Russia's space station to keep cash-strapped Moscow involved in the program. In a written statement, Mr. Clinton says Russia remains "a valued partner" in the space station project, and that the new law would not affect Russia's role in the program. The measure also calls for periodic reports to Congress identifying those who transfer weapons technology or equipment to Iran, and gives the President the authority to deny export licenses, government procurement and foreign assistance to those entities. Mr. Clinton's statement says he fully shares the Congress' objective of promoting nonproliferation and combating Iran's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems. He says the issue remains at the top of the agenda with Russia as well as with other countries whose companies may be providing such assistance to Iran. The President had vetoed a stronger version of the bill in 1998 on grounds it would harm global efforts to block Iran's nuclear weapons programs. He says he signed the later bill because it would not hurt such efforts. But Mr. Clinton does say the measure overlaps existing law, and pledges to work with Congress to reconcile such overlaps. He notes the United States has imposed penalties against Russian firms on ten separate occasions for transferring weapons equipment or technology to Iran. /// REST OPT /// The President signed the bill a day after he extended sanctions against Iran for another year, citing the threat posed to US national security, foreign policy and economy by Iran's support of terrorism, efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and attempts to undermine the Middle East peace process. But in an effort to encourage reform and open a dialogue with Tehran, the United States this week is expected to announce an easing of its ban on imports of Iranian carpets, caviar and pistachio nuts. The announcement is expected Friday. Relations between Washington and Tehran have been severed ever since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. (Signed) NEB/DT/TVM/PT 14-Mar-2000 20:45 PM EDT (15-Mar-2000 0145 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .