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Iran calls in Swiss ambassador to protest U.S. sanctions

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Iran has summoned its Swiss envoy to protest new U.S. sanctions
  • The Swiss envoy represents U.S. interests in Iran
  • Washington has imposed new sanctions against several Iranian officials for alleged human rights abuses
  • Iran says the United States has no right to impose the sanctions

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- The Iranian government summoned the Swiss envoy to Tehran Thursday to lodge a protest against the U.S. government's recent imposition of sanctions against eight senior Iranian officials, according to two Iranian state-run news outlets.

The envoy, who represents U.S. interests in Iran, said she will notify Washington about the complaint, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced new sanctions Wednesday against Iranian government officials, members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and others accused by the United States of being responsible for human rights abuses.

The sanctions block the assets of, and prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in any business with, those on the list, which includes the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's prosecutor general, and the country's ministers of welfare and intelligence.

"On these officials' watch or under their command Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed," Clinton said.

"Yet the Iranian government has ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses, to hold to account those responsible, and respect the rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens."

An Iranian Foreign Ministry official told the Swiss envoy the United States has no right under international law to impose the sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting news agency said.

On Thursday, Washington imposed economic sanctions on Swiss-based Naftiran Intertrade Company for engaging in energy trade with Iran, according to Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.

The action was intended to discourage international dealings with Iran, Steinberg said.

Four oil companies -- Total, Statoil, Italy ENI, and Royal Dutch Shell -- have agreed to cut back on Iranian trade, and will receive no further U.S. sanctions, he said.

CNN's Elise Labott and Laurie Ure contributed to this report