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Bill would punish firms dealing with Iran, Libya

Congress has sent President Clinton a bill opposed by many of America's allies that would punish foreign businesses that invest in Iran and Libya.

The House approved without dissent Tuesday the Senate version of the legislation that requires the president to impose sanctions on foreign firms that invest $40-million or more in a year in the energy sectors of the two countries.

The administration has voiced concerns about retaliation from U.S. trading partners but has indicated that Clinton will sign the bill.

The United States is already under fire from Canada, Mexico and other allies for a measure Clinton signed into law in March that penalizes foreign businesses that invest in property the Cuban government confiscated from current U.S. citizens.

Senate legislation, passed last week, restored sanctions on Libya dropped in the original House bill approved by a 415-0 vote last month. Some House members advocated lesser sanctions on Libya because of complaints from European countries that have invested heavily in that country's oil industry.

But Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the International Relations Committee, said the crash of a TWA jetliner off Long Island, possibly as the result of a terrorist bomb, backed up the need to get tough on Libya, which is suspected of being behind the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103.

"We should try to put in place any and all measures to try to bring Libya in compliance" with U.N. resolutions demanding cooperation in bringing to justice the perpetrators of that terrorist act, Gilman said, referring to the Pan-Am bombing.

Libya and Iran are on the State Department list of nations supporting terrorism and the United States bans trade with both.

"Now the nations of the world will know they can trade with them or trade with us. They have to choose," said Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., chief Senate sponsor of the legislation.

For both states, the president would be directed to choose two of six possible sanctions for firms violating the prohibitions.

The sanctions are: denying Export-Import Bank loans, denying export licenses, barring U.S. banks from making loans of more than $10-million a year to sanctioned parties, barring sanctioned financial institutions from being primary dealers of U.S. government bonds, banning U.S. government procurement of goods and services from sanctioned entities and imposing import sanctions.