The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday (March 17) — keeping up its economic pressure campaign despite an earlier offer to help Tehran cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking at a news conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Iran to release detained American citizens — and made clear that Washington will maintain maximum pressure to choke off Iran’s oil exports. The U.S. campaign hopes to force Iran to limit its nuclear, missile and regional activities and began after President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018. Pompeo also said the State Department was blacklisting nine entities around the world for engaging in what they called “significant transactions” to trade in Iranian petrochemicals. The Commerce Department said it will add six people – including five Iranian nuclear scientists – and U.S. 18 corporations to the “Entity List” for aiding Iran’s nuclear program. Sources familiar with the matter said the U.S was unlikely to ease sanctions on Iran — despite an appeal from China to do so because of the coronavirus pandemic. Iran has reported over 16,00 coronavirus cases and over 980 deaths — it’s one of the worst national outbreaks outside of China.