The European Union has agreed to impose fresh sanctions on 180 Iranian officials and entities over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme. Ministers meeting in Brussels also agreed to work on other measures that could target Iran’s energy sector. The sanctions follow a UN report that said Iran had carried out tests related to “development of a nuclear device”.
They also come two days after hundreds of Iranian protesters stormed the UK embassy in Tehran. Britain announced on Wednesday it was expelling all Iranian diplomats from London, after pulling its own out of Tehran. Last week the United States, Canada and the UK announced new sanctions against Iran in the wake of the report from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tehran insists that its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.
EU ministers said in a statement: “The council agreed to broaden existing sanctions by examining, in close co-ordination with international partners, additional measures including measures aimed at severely affecting the Iranian financial system, in the transport sector, in the energy sector.” Ministers said a decision would be taken no later than January.
Ahead of the Brussels talks, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he wanted “an intensification of the economic pressure”, particularly the isolation of Iran’s financial sector. The 27-member EU has already frozen the assets of hundreds of Iranian companies and has adopted measures to prevent new investment and technological assistance to Iran’s gas producing and refining industry.
The EU is yet to release details about the 180 officials and entities targeted by the sanctions. Correspondents say foreign ministers failed to agree on an oil embargo against Iran because some EU countries are dependent on Iranian oil. The sanctions follow last month’s report by the IAEA, which said that Iran had carried out tests “relevant to the development of a nuclear device”. But despite the report, Iran was not referred to the UN Security Council because Russia and China were opposed to the move.