The United States will Thursday order sanctions against the Iranian military, media reports said a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice singled out Iran as the biggest threat to US security.Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are to designate Iran’s elite Quds force as a supporter of terrorism and its Revolutionary Guards as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction, triggering economic sanctions, the Washington Post and New York Times reported.

The sanctions allow efforts to financially isolate Iran’s military and press hundreds of foreign companies doing business with it to back out or risk US sanctions, the newspapers reported.

These will be the broadest sanctions imposed on Iran since the country’s Islamic revolution in 1979 and comes as the international community is embroiled in a mounting standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

Full article here. The announcement comes after this weekend’s surprising news that Ali Larijani, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, had been removed from his post by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Larijani’s removal was jarring, in part, because it seemed to signal that hard-liners in the Iranian government were asserting their control over the nuclear issue; Larijani is widely seen as a moderate who desired constructive dialogue with the United States.

Javier Solana, Secretary-General of the European Union, suggests that the hard-liners might nevertheless be having a hard time taking control of the nuclear issue:

Iran’s former top nuclear negotiator, replaced this weekend in a surprise announcement in Tehran, nevertheless maintained his authority and leadership in talks with the EU in Rome, the European Union foreign policy chief was quoted as saying Thursday.

The EU’s Javier Solana met with Ali Larijani, the former negotiator, and his successor, Saeed Jalili, for a session in Rome Tuesday. The three met again briefly on Wednesday.

“Here I found the same Larijani I had met before, and he had the role of chief negotiator,” Solana was quoted as saying in an interview with Rome daily La Repubblica.

“I have to say that the meeting was chiefly with Larijani, who clearly was the group leader and maintained his authority and the leadership in the negotiations,” added Solana.

During a news conference, too, Larijani took the lead in fielding questions from reporters.

Full article here.