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White House says shutdown impedes sanctions

White House blames shutdown for paralysing department in-charge of facilitating punitive measures on Syria and Iran.

Last Modified: 05 Oct 2013 00:07
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The shutdown has reduced staffing at the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to 11 employees from 175 [AP]

The White House has said that the partial shutdown of the US government is hindering the enforcement of sanctions against Iran and Syria because of worker furloughs at the Treasury Department office.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Friday that the shutdown had reduced staffing at the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to 11 employees from a normal contingent of 175.

"The office is unable to sustain its core functions," Carney told reporters at the daily White House briefing. "That is a negative consequence of this wholly unnecessary decision by the House Republicans to shut down the government."

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The office's was unable to sustain its core functions, he said, as its tasks included "issuing new sanctions designations against those enabling the governments of Iran and Syria, as well as terrorist organizations, WMD (weapons of mass destruction) proliferators, narcotics cartels, and transnational organized crime groups".

The comments came as the Obama administration's diplomatic engagement with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has put a focus on US sanctions, which are widely seen as having damaged Iran's economy enough to force Tehran back to the negotiating table.

The shutdown, which forced the US President to cancel a key Asia tour has undermined the US' global standing according to analysts.

Richard Haass, president of the Council of Foreign Relations said that the shutdown sends a message to US allies that "they're somewhat on their own".

"It certainly dilutes any appeal of the American political model, and it raises new questions of American predictability and reliability, which are qualities that are vital to an effective great power".

'Negative impacts'

US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf blasted what she called a "damaging" shutdown that "really negatively impacts our standing abroad".

"For a Congress that talks a lot about American exceptionalism, they're sending the exact opposite message all around the world right now," she said citing international newspaper headlines.

The White House released a statement on Thursday stating the reason Obama cancelled plans to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Bali, Indonesia because of the "difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown".

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