Obama - AP - July 22, 2011
U.S. President Barack Obama, July 22, 2011. Photo by AP
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The United States may impose more sanctions on Iran, possibly on commercial banks or front companies, but is unlikely to go after its oil and gas sector or its central bank for now, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

"I think you will see bilateral sanctions increasing," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, said Iran has worked on developing an atomic bomb design and may still be conducting relevant research.

"From our side, we are really looking to close loopholes wherever they may exist," he added, noting that U.S. sanctions are so comprehensive that "there is not a whole lot out there other than the oil and gas market and you know how sensitive that is."

"I don't think we are there yet," he added, referring to the possibility of the United States seeking via U.S. sanctions to make it harder for Iran to export oil and gas, the mainstay of the Islamic Republic's economy.

The official also played down the chances of sanctioning Iran's central bank, which is the clearinghouse for much of its petroleum trade with the rest of the world and which Washington recently suggested was a possibility.

"That is off the table (for now)," said the U.S. official.

"That could change, depending on what other players (think). I don't want to rule that out, but it is not really currently on the table."