WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 98 to 0 today to ban all Iranian imports, primarily oil, into the United States as it headed into a late-night session on the $303-billion defense bill.
The United States has imported $500 million to $600 million worth of products annually from Iran in recent years, according to the proposal offered by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.).
Iranian oil sales to the United States are skyrocketing this year. The Commerce Department reported Monday that imports of oil and petroleum products from Iran went from $498 million in all of 1986 to $819 million through July of 1987.
The vote attached the amendment to a pending bill authorizing the Pentagon budget for the fiscal year which begins Thursday. The only senators not voting were two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee and Paul Simon of Illinois.
The House defense authorization bill, passed in May, does not contain a ban on Iranian imports. A conference committee with members from both chambers must work out differences between the two versions.
The proposal said that "the actions of Iran in continuing mine-laying activities, launching Silkworm missiles against Kuwait and refusing to accept the U.N.-proposed cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War are totally unwarranted and increase tension and the danger of a widening war in the Persian Gulf."
"There's no sense in letting our oil purchases finance Iran's war," said Dole.
He referred to reports that Iran has become the second-largest supplier of crude oil to the United States, behind only Nigeria.
One-Third of Oil Revenues
The Iranian shipments amount to more than 11% of the total oil imported by the United States in July, and they provided Iran with about one-third of its total oil revenues, according to figures supplied by the Commerce Department.
Dole's amendment said "the provision of this hard currency to Iran increases its ability to procure mines, Silkworm missiles and other armaments from foreign sources, thereby increasing its ability to sustain and escalate its war with Iraq and other irresponsible actions, such as mine-laying."
Senate leaders promised a post-midnight session if necessary to finish all but the most controversial amendments remaining on the bill and planned a series of votes on lesser amendments starting this evening.
Still unresolved was a Democratic proposal to end Persian Gulf escort operations, but not pull out any troops or ships, 90 days after the defense bill became law unless Congress voted a specific extension. The law would require a gulf policy report from President Reagan 30 days after enactment.