PENALTIES: The move targets the military and government banking institutions. By Anne Gearan THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON – The United States announced harsh new penalties on the Iranian military and state-owned banking systems Thursday, raising pressure on the world financial system to cut ties with a regime the West accuses of bankrolling terrorism and seeking a nuclear bomb. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.The U.S. sanctions on elements of Iran’s vast armed forces and its largest bank are the most sweeping since 1979, when the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran ruptured diplomatic, business and military ties. The sanctions are the first of their type imposed by the United States specifically against the armed forces of another government. They are part of the Bush administration’s two-track approach to its chief adversary in the Mideast that offsets diplomatic overtures with sanctions, bellicose rhetoric and the implicit threat of military action. U.S. officials insisted Thursday that the new moves do not hasten war and that the United States remains committed to finding a way to talk Iran out of a nuclear program the U.S. claims is hostile. The punitive moves directly target Iranian organizations and people the U.S. accuses of supporting terrorism or spreading weapons of mass destruction, but the main effect is likely to fall elsewhere – on European and other overseas banks and firms that do business with oil-rich Iran. “As awareness of Iran’s deceptive behavior has grown, many banks around the world have decided as a matter of prudence and integrity that Iran’s business is simply not worth the risk,” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said. There has been grumbling, mainly in Europe, about earlier U.S. financial sanctions on Iran that overseas bankers found heavy-handed, but Paulson is right that some of Iran’s former financial partners have already distanced themselves from Tehran under hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Paulson and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the penalties together, a recognition that a year-old effort to levy unilateral Treasury sanctions has had far greater effect than the diplomatic channels Rice has pursued with Iran. “Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security,” through its nuclear program, export of ballistic missiles, Rice said, along with what she charged is backing for militants in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. The latest sanctions will cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps, from the American financial system. State-owned Bank Melli, Bank Mellat and Bank Saderat were named supporters of global terrorist groups for their activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. Any assets found in the United States belonging to the designated groups must be frozen. Americans are also forbidden from doing business with those designated organizations. Bank Melli is Iran’s largest. The United States says it provides services to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Bank Mellat serves the state Atomic Energy Organization and Bank Saderat routes money to terrorist or militant groups, the administration said. The administration did not lay out any new evidence for the allegations. The penalties, some of which have been long expected, were announced an hour before Rice faced scathing questions from congressional Democrats on Iraq, and in the midst of embarrassing revelations about lapses in the State Department’s management of private security guards in Iraq. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!