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Iran spends almost double

IRAN spent nearly twice as much on imports from the United States during US President Barack Obama's first months in office than it did during the same period in 2008, showing that despite trade penalties and tense relations, the two countries are still doing business.

The US exported US$96 million in goods to Iran from January through April, according to an Associated Press analysis of US government trade data compiled by the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research in Holyoke, Massachusetts. US exports to Iran totaled US$51 million during the same period in 2008 and US$27 million over those months in 2007.

Soybeans, wheat and medical supplies - all considered humanitarian items exempt from US trade sanctions - are among the top exports this year.

The latest trade figures reflect an increase in Iran's agricultural imports over the past year due to poor harvests there, said Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a business group in Washington. "I wouldn't read too much into it as far as trends are concerned."

Reinsch said he is hearing from more businesses interested in Iran. But beyond an effort by the Obama administration to encourage talks with Iran, he hasn't seen any policy changes that would lead to more opportunities for US businesses.

Humanitarian shipments are an example of the tricky line the US has walked in dealing with Iran.


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