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US House of Representatives passes Russia sanctions bill by big margin

The Republican-led House of Representatives has decisively approved legislation that hits Russia with additional financial sanctions.

The new penalties are aimed at rebuking Moscow for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria.

Lawmakers voted 419-3 to pass the bill, which prevents President Donald Trump from waiving the sanctions against Russia without first securing permission from Congress.

The measure now heads to the Senate for action.

The bill could be sent to Mr Trump before Congress begins its August recess.

The legislation also would slap penalties on Iran and North Korea.

Mr Trump has not threatened to reject the bill, but senior administration officials had objected to the requirement for a mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the Russia sanctions.

They argued the review infringes on the president's executive authority.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials had objected to a mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the sanctions on Russia.

They have argued it would infringe on the president's executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication and co-operation between the two former Cold War foes.

But Mr Trump's persistent overtures to Russia pushed lawmakers to include the sanctions review.

Many lawmakers view Russia as the nation's top strategic adversary and believe additional sanctions will allow the US to operate from a position of strength in any negotiations with Moscow.

Mr Trump's "rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and conciliatory, up to this point," said Representative Charlie Dent.

"Russian behaviour has been atrocious," Mr Dent said. "They deserve these enhanced sanctions. Relations with Russia will improve when Russian behaviour changes and they start to fall back into the family of nations."

Heavy support for the bill from Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate has effectively scuttled the potential for Mr Trump to derail the legislation.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated Sunday the president would sign the sanctions bill. But on Monday, Ms Sanders said Mr Trump is "going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like".

"The president very much supports sanctions on those countries but at the same time wants to be sure we get good deals," she told reporters on Air Force One. "Those two things are very important."

Signing a bill that penalises Russia in part for interfering in 2016 campaign would mark a significant shift for Mr Trump.

He has repeatedly cast doubt on the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia sought to tip the election in his favour.

He has blasted as a "witch hunt" investigations into the extent of Russia's interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

The North Korea-related sanctions bar ships owned by the reclusive nation or by countries that refuse to comply with UN resolutions against Pyongyang from operating in American waters or docking at US ports. Goods produced by North Korea's forced labour would be prohibited from entering the United States.

The sanctions package also imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile programme and anyone who does business with them. The measure would apply terrorism sanctions to the country's Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

AP

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