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AFP - The US has kept pressure on Iran with fresh sanctions on two groups accused of illicitly aiding the country, even as negotiations continue over Tehran's nuclear program.

The US Treasury set sanctions on a Chinese group accused of supporting Iran's ballistic missile program and a Dubai group which allegedly helps Iran evade restrictions exporting its oil.

Eight China-based companies linked to already-sanctioned businessman Karl Lee, or Li Fangwei, were blacklisted.

The Treasury said Mr Lee had used them as front companies to export materials to Iran for its ballistic missile program.

The Treasury also named Dubai businessman Saeed al-Aqili, his Al Aqili Group LLC, and a Dubai-based Pakistani "financial facilitator", Anwar Kamal Nizami, for helping Iran avoid international sanctions on its oil exports.

The Treasury's move to blacklist both groups forbids US citizens or businesses from transactions with them and freezes any assets they may have in a US jurisdiction.

The new sanctions come even as Washington, as part of the "P5+1" powers in negotiations with Tehran, have loosened general sanctions on the country's economy as an incentive to make progress on halting Iran's alleged effort to develop nuclear weapons.

After a temporary deal on the issue was struck in November, the group - US, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany - is now seeking a permanent accord against a July 20 deadline.

"As we have made clear, we will continue vigorously to enforce our sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a comprehensive deal addressing Iran's nuclear program," said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen in a statement.

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