The new tool would authorise "the blocking or 'freezing' of assets of WMD proliferators and their supporters, and thereby prohibiting US persons from engaging in transactions with them", The Washington Post reported on Monday, citing an internal government memo.

According to the newspaper, the measure was outlined in a "WMD Proliferation Financing Executive Order" that administration officials hope President George Bush will sign before attending the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, on Saturday.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the order's success would rely heavily on US intelligence. 

List of targets

A government list obtained by the newspaper identified three North Korean companies, four Iranian and a Syrian government research facility as initial targets of the effort described in the draft executive order, the Post said.

Three of the eight entities had been targeted previously by US sanctions, as had most Iranian agencies, the report said.

The measure would also target the US assets of individuals or companies, including foreign banks, that do business with those on the list, the newspaper said.

"If there is a bank in some European capital that is participating in working with one of the entities and that bank has some assets in the US, it is conceivable that some action could be taken to the bank's assets here," a senior official, with knowledge of the order's details, was quoted as saying.