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US imposes sanctions on the Iranian network supporting child soldiers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Tuesday against a multi-billion dollar financial network supporting an Iranian paramilitary force that recruits and trains child soldiers for the country's elite Revolutionary Guards.

The announcement came two weeks before the Trump administration reinstated some of the United States' toughest sanctions against Iran, including the oil sector.

The Bonyad Taavon Basij network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force working for the IRGC's Iranian Corps, said the Ministry of Finance in a statement.

Both Basij groups were attacked by the new sanctions.

"This vast network provides the Basij's efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are being forced into battle under the leadership of the IRGC," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Basij is involved in violent raids and serious human rights violations in Iran, the statement said. It recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC Quds force, including Iranian children who are only 1

2 years old and then sent to Syria to support the administration of President Bashar al-Assad.

The designations emphasize that "this Iranian regime is not a normal government," said a high-ranking government official. "Normal governments do not have revolutionary weapons that support the revolution and wreak havoc with their neighbors, they do not recruit indoctrinates, and they use child soldiers."

The sanctions were imposed on Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co and imposed five other investment firms, said the Ministry of Finance.

The sanctions also target Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co, the largest tractor manufacturer in the Middle East, and Esfahan's Mobarakeh Steel Co, the largest steel producer in the Middle East and North Africa.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and David Alexander; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by James Dalgleish and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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