WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is punishing nine foreign companies, six of them in China, for selling missile goods and chemical arms material to Iran.
In making the announcement yesterday, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the sanctions were based on ''credible evidence," which he did not disclose.
Two of the companies are Indian and the other is Austrian.
As a result, Ereli said, the United States will not provide export licenses to the companies for doing business here and will ban US government purchases from the companies.
The action was taken under the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which Congress passed in 2000 to deter international support for Iran's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and for missile-delivery systems.
''It's an important and effective tool in constraining Iran's efforts to develop missile and weapons of mass destruction capabilities," Ereli said.
''It does have an impact, particularly in alerting governments to activity taking place in their countries," he said.
Preventing proliferation of dangerous technology is difficult ''and there are always going to be those who put narrow commercial self-interest above greater social good or public welfare," the spokesman said.
China, in the past, has denied that its government or any of its companies have supplied missile or weapons-related material to Iran.
In an unclassified report to Congress last year, the Central Intelligence Agency said Iran was pursuing nuclear and chemical-biological weapons programs and was trying to procure material from commercial entities in Russia, China, North Korea, and Europe.
The Washington Times reported the US action in yesterday's editions.
The Chinese companies named by Ereli are China Aerotechnology Import Export Corp., the missile exporter China North Industries Corp., Zibo Chemet Equipment Co., the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, Ounion International Economic and Technical Cooperative Ltd., and the Limmt Metallurgy and Minerals Co.
The two sanctioned Indian companies are Sabero Organics Chemical and Sandhya Organics Chemical. The Austrian firm is Steyr-Mannlicher, which makes assault weapons.