WASHINGTON, July 31 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a bill on Wednesday aiming at choking out Iran's oil exports, just four days before the Islamic republic's moderate president-elect takes office.
The bill, which passed with a vote of 400 to 20 in the Republican-controlled house, seeks to squeeze further Iran's oil exports, the country's economic lifeline.
The bill will move on to the Senate Banking Committee in September. If passed in the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama, it will cut Iran's oil exports by an additional one million barrels per day in a year.
More than a dozen economies, including Japan, India, China, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and 10 European countries, are having U.S. waiver in their importation of Iran's oil, though the Obama administration and the European Union have targeted the country's oil exports in their efforts to stop its uranium enrichment activities suspected of being used to produce nuclear weapons.
The sanctions, which hit Iran's financial system as well, have reduced Iran's oil exports by half.
The House's move came just as Hassan Rouhani will be sworn in on Sunday as Iran's new president, and despite efforts by some Democrats to stop it.
The Democratic lawmakers had called on the House leadership to delay the vote on the bill on the grounds that it could jeopardize the Obama administration's renewed effort to engage Rouhani over Iran's nuclear program.
Press reports said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had told the Obama administration that Iran was interested in direct talks with the United States about its nuclear activities.
Washington eased sanctions on Iran last week, allowing more basic medical supplies and devices into the country.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, while refusing to comment on the House's expected vote on the bill earlier in the day, was hopeful of engagement with Rouhani's government.
"Following his inauguration, we hope that President-elect Rouhani...and the Iranian government will engage substantively with the international community to reach a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program," she said at a daily press briefing.
"We and our international partners remain ready to meet at the earliest opportunity once Iran is prepared to do so," she added.
Two rounds of talks have been held this year between Iran and the six powers of Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S. and Germany, but produced no substantive breakthrough due to lingering differences over Iran's enrichment activities.