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WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has notified Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois that it "can't support" the bills intended to help states and funds divest from Iran and Sudan, Haaretz learned on Tuesday. In a letter sent to Durbin within the past four weeks, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Department Kevin Fromer explains the reservations the administration has regarding these bills, among them, the fear that such legislation "could jeopardize the support of our allies for multilateral actions against the regimes in these countries." Durbin introduced S. 831 - The Sudan Divestment Authorization Act - which is one of the bills the administration is asking Congress to take off the table.

Earlier Tuesday, Haaretz revealed that a bill submitted by Senator Barack Obama is being held in the Senate by Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama (read this story on Rosner's Domain here).

In the letter from the Treasury Department, the administration explains its resistance to several divestment bills. "The Treasury Department shares Congress' concerns about the actions of state sponsors of terrorism," it says, "and agrees that economic pressure is a component of any comprehensive strategy to alter the behavior of these regimes." However, it says, "Imposing meaningful financial pressure requires the cooperation and joint actions of other countries." In the case of Iran, claims the administration, pressure is mounting precisely because the United States is not acting alone.

Fromer, assistant secretary for legislative affairs, claims that "requiring the U.S. government to produce a list targeting the lawful conduct of companies based in allied nations is unhelpful to our multilateral approach." He advises the Senate to pursue other means, like improving "the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure requirements."