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(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Linda Stender on Thursday welcomed progress on the law she sponsored requiring New Jersey’s pension and annuity funds to divest themselves from companies doing business with Iran, but cautioned continued vigilance is required.

“We’ve made great progress and sent a clear message that New Jersey will never play any role in supporting Iran’s aggressive actions that threaten peace-loving nations, but we know we cannot let down our guard,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “We still have cash that needs to be divested and must always remain watchful for additional companies that develop ties to Iran and help promote and finance their dangerous agenda.”

Stender on Thursday joined a State House news conference recognizing the one-year anniversary of the Iranian post-election protects. Stender was joined by other state lawmakers; David Lentz, chairman of the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities MetroWest; and high school students from the teen-led organization No Nukes for Iran.

The news conference came after the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday approved a fourth round of sanctions against Iran for its controversial nuclear program.

During the news conference, Stender noted how New Jersey’s pension and annuity funds have divested themselves of 14.5 million shares of companies tied to Iran – worth $489.1 million – since March 1, 2008.

“No one believes our divestment will in and of itself force Iran to change its ways, but withdrawing significant funding certainly cannot hurt and definitely sends the message through the almighty dollar that New Jersey finds Iran’s threats to its neighbors, human rights violations and pursuit of nuclear arms to be unacceptable,” Stender said. “It is the right and moral thing to do.”

The state has until Jan. 4, 2011 to divest all funding from companies tied to Iran. As of Jan. 31 this year, it still had 374,671 shares worth $11.2 million invested in two companies active in Iran – Russian gas company OAO Gazprom and Petroleo Brasileiro.

“We still have more work to do,” Stender said. “But I am confident that with the proper vigilance we will soon be completely divested from Iran.”

Stender’s 2007 law prohibits the investment of New Jersey’s public funds in any foreign company that has ties to the government of Iran. The use of economic sanctions to foster policy changes has been utilized by the U.S. government in foreign relations and by U.S. citizens to advance civil rights on many occasions in the past. New Jersey used similar sanctions, for instance, to oppose apartheid in South Africa.

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