EU moves closer to new Iran sanctions
By Justyna Pawlak
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union provisionally approved new economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme on Friday, with senior diplomats giving their backing to measures against Tehran's banking sector, industry and shipping.
The move marks a major step-up of European efforts to pressure Tehran to scale back its nuclear work, amid growing concerns over Iran's military intentions, foundering diplomacy and threats of attack on Iran's nuclear installations by Israel.
Iran denies it wants to produce nuclear weapons and has so far refused to meet international demands made in three rounds of talks this year, unless major economic sanctions are lifted.
European efforts complement plans for more sanctions in the United States and aim to tighten the financial noose on the government. Already, the Iranian economy is suffering and the rial currency has lost nearly two-thirds of its value to the dollar over the last year.
"The new EU sanctions ... are a response to the uncompromising stance that Iran took in the diplomatic talks," said nuclear proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank.
The new measures will have to be formally approved on Monday at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg before coming to effect.
An EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new measures include a ban on financial transactions, with some exceptions for those involving humanitarian aid, food and medicine purchases and provisions for legitimate trade.
In a reversal of existing European sanctions policy, the ban will force European traders to apply to their national governments for authorisation before they can finance any transactions in allowed goods. Continued...