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Senate passes sweeping sanctions bill targeting Iran, Russia

The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for new sanctions punishing Russian Federation for alleged meddling in the 2016 US election, and to force President Donald Trump to get Congress' approval before easing any existing sanctions.

"With overwhelming Senate passage of the Russian Federation sanctions amendment, the US sends a strong signal to President Putin while ensuring the Trump administration has the flexibility it needs", said Senator Corker.

The Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly - 97 to 2 - to add the Russian Federation measure to a bill sanctioning Iran for its work to develop ballistic missile technology, in a bipartisan rebuke to Trump's suggestions about improving relations with Russian Federation.

The sanctions were meant to be a punishment for Russia's meddling in Ukraine as well as pushback to the Moscow government's attempts to interfere in the US election past year, lawmakers said.

Earlier, Trump has indicated he is skeptical about additional sanctions and has been dismissive about the role of Russian interference in the US elections. It would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort.

The bill would also impose sanctions on Iran with regard to its ballistic missile activities that are not linked to the nuclear agreement the Arab country signed with the USA and other countries.

The sanctions are "focused on various areas, including the Russian intelligence and defense sectors, parts of its energy sector, and its metals, mining and railways economy", according to the Washington Post. Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed his opposition to the legislation, saying it would hurt the "flexibility" the administration needs to "maintain a constructive dialogue" with Russian Federation. The two "no" senators were Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah. "I am strongly supportive of the sanctions on Russian Federation included in this bill", Sanders said in a statement.

The only two votes against the Russia-Iran sanctions deal came from GOP Sens.

President Trump had said in January he would be open to lifting sanctions on Moscow if they assisted the United States fight extremism and Terrorism.

Sanctions are authorized on Russia's mining and shipping sectors as well, and the government is required to study the USA economy's exposure to Russian state-owned enterprises.

"What I wouldn't want to do is close the channels off", Tillerson told a Senate committee.