AFP: EU nations were set on Monday or Tuesday to adopt new sanctions against Iran targetting its financial institutions, especially the large Bank Melli, diplomatic sources said.
BRUSSELS (AFP) — EU nations were set on Monday or Tuesday to adopt new sanctions against Iran targetting its financial institutions, especially the large Bank Melli, diplomatic sources said.
The measures, which will notably stop the operations of the bank's offices in London, Hamburg and Paris, were to be approved during a meeting of EU agriculture and fisheries ministers Monday and Tuesday in Luxembourg, the sources said.
The new sanctions also add more names of people and organisations to the EU's visa-ban and assets-freeze lists, according to one of the sources.
The EU move stems from a strict interpretation of UN sanctions against Iran which have been adopted since 2006 aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, which the international community fears are part of a nuclear weapons building programme.
Tehran insists it wants atomic energy only for a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.
The UN sanctions include a clause calling for "vigilance" by member states over the movement in their territories of people directly associated with or supporting Iran's nuclear activities.
The EU has decided to interpret this clause in the strictest fashion, one European diplomat said.
Washington has been waiting for Europe to take such measures for months. Indeed the matter became a theme of US President George W. Bush's recent European tour.
The 27 EU member states have been working out the detail since May but the measures were delayed until after a trip to Iran earlier this month by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Solana visited Tehran on June 14 to present a cooperation offer to Iran on behalf of the six major countries involved in the dossier — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US.
That offer, a key part of the international community's "carrot and stick" approach to the issue — was a re-tweaked version of a package put forward, but rejected, in June 2006.
Solana said Friday that he had still received no response from the Iranian side on the offer, which is conditional on Tehran suspending its uranium enrichment activities.
Top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said the idea of Iran suspending enrichment — repeatedly rejected by the government — was not part of the discussions with Solana.
However he added Sunday that Iran was examining a "timetable" presented by world powers for starting talks on a package aimed at ending the five-year standoff over its nuclear programme.
While the opening of full negotiations on cooperation is conditional upon Iran's suspension of all enrichment activities, Solana proposed a period of preliminary talks during which Tehran would agree merely not to set up any new centrifuges and the national powers agree not to ratchet up their existing sanctions.