Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, which the government maintains are for peaceful purposes, has led the European Union to impose new sanctions.
The fresh sanctions come just two days after Iranian protesters wrought havoc on the UK embassy in Tehran, the capital.
As a result, Britain has announced that it is pulling all of its dimplomatic staff out of Tehran and expelling all Iranian diplomats from London.
180 Iranian officials and firms will be affected, resulting in the freezing of assets of 39 people and 141 companies based in Iran. The sanctions will also include travel bans.
A statement from EU ministers about the fresh sanctions said that they were simply “broadening existing sanctions.”
At a meeting in Brussels, ministers agreed to continue consideration of other measures that could target the energy sector of Iran. The statement from ministers said that the measures could include “severely affecting” the Iranian financial system, transport sector, and energy sector in order to curtail what is perceived as a dangerous nuclear programme.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has called for “an intensification of the economic pressure” on Iran, specifically though isolating Iran’s financial sector.
However, ministers failed to pass an oil embargo on Iran, as some EU countries depend on oil from the Middle Eastern nation.
While the EU leaders denounced the attack on the British embassy in Tehran, they were clear in saying that the latest sanctions are not a result of the incident. They did, however, say that the EU would take “appropriate measures in response,” but did not give further details.
The EU sanctions come after last week’s announcements that the US, Canada, and the UK all were sanctioning Iran after reports from the UN’s nuclear watchdog looked grim.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran’s testing was leading to the “development of a nuclear device,” though Tehran insists that their intentions are peaceful.
In order to curtail these developments, the EU has frozen assets of hundreds of companies, and on a wider scale hopes to prevent new investment into Iran. In particular, the EU, US, UK, and Canada all want to ensure that technological assistance is not given to Iran’s fuel industry, which produces and refines oil.
Despite sanctions from much of the developed world, Iran has not been referred to the UN Security Council, as Russia and China opposed the move.