EU bars Iran oil imports, slaps more financial curbs
AFP BRUSSELS THE EU agreed an embargo on Iran’s oil exports on Monday as well as financial sanctions as the West ramped up pressure on Tehran’s suspect nuclear drive to press it to return to the negotiating table.
“This is an important decision.
It will be a major strengthening of the sanctions applied on Iran,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“It is absolutely right to do this in view of Iran’s continued breach of UN Security Council resolutions and refusal to come to meaningful negotiations on the nuclear programme,” he added.
After weeks of tough talks on the timing and terms of a ban on Iranian crude, ambassadors of the 27 EU nations reached a political agreement in early morning meetings held as foreign ministers converged on Brussels for a day of talks.
The ministers, who also agreed to toughen sanctions against Syria’s top military brass, will formally announce the measures against Iran later Monday.
In the toughest action yet to reduce Iran’s ability to fund a nuclear weapons programme, the EU ministers are set to also target the country’s central bank, and possibly one other bank, as well as ban investment and imports of petrochemicals.
Also expected are bans on the sale of gold, diamonds and other precious metals to Iran and any delivery of newly minted coins and notes.
The freeze on Iran’s central bank, which like the oil embargo aims to dry up funding for Tehran’s nuclear activities, is expected to be partial, “enabling legitimate trade to go ahead.” Germany notably has expressed concern over the reimbursement of loans to Iran worth 2.6 billion euros ($3.4 billion) should financial channels close.
Meanwhile, global powers involved in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme are still waiting for Tehran to come forward and resume talks left in limbo since January last year, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
“The pressure of sanctions is designed to try and make sure that Iran takes seriously our request to come to the table,” she said.
“Iran has the opportunity to come forward not just to talk, but to have some concrete issues to talk about,” she added.