Tougher EU sanctions against Iran come into force

BRUSSELS Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:58am EST

Alistair Burt, British Minister for the Middle East and South Asia, speaks during a news conference in Algiers June 24, 2012. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

Alistair Burt, British Minister for the Middle East and South Asia, speaks during a news conference in Algiers June 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Louafi Larbi

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Rigorous new sanctions against Iran's banking, shipping and industrial sectors took effect on Saturday, as part of the European Union's effort to force Tehran to scale back its nuclear program.

The sanctions, agreed in October, entered EU law with their publication in the European Union's Official Journal on Saturday.

The toughest EU measures yet, they include bans on financial transactions, sales to Iran of shipping equipment and steel, and imports of Iranian natural gas, adding to earlier bans, including on the OPEC producer's oil.

They reflect heightened concern over Iran's nuclear goals and Israeli threats to attack Iranian atomic installations if diplomacy and other measures fail to deliver a solution.

Diplomats say they hope talks with Iran can resume in January, but are waiting for an answer from Tehran, which maintains its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

In a statement, Britain's foreign office said there was a clear need "for an urgent solution".

"Iran's leaders know that sanctions are having a significant impact," Britain's Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt said.

"They should be in no doubt that the international community will keep up the pressure until they are ready to negotiate in good faith and take the concrete steps needed to convince the international community that they are not building a nuclear weapon."

The new sanctions mark a significant change of policy for the 27-member bloc, which previously sought mainly to target specific people and companies with economic restrictions.

It has lagged the United States in imposing blanket industry bans because it is anxious to avoid penalizing ordinary Iranian citizens, while punishing the Tehran government.

Sanctions have increasingly inflicted severe pain on the Iranian economy, although the country has years of experience of circumventing them by using front companies and tortuous shipping routes.

The new European measures make clear natural gas shipments are prohibited in any form and swapping, as opposed to simply buying, cargoes is also outlawed.

While imposing a general ban on financial transactions, they make exceptions for those involving humanitarian aid, food and medicine purchases and provisions for legitimate trade.

In a statement, the European Commission said the new law brought the number of entities subject to sanctions to 490 and the total number of persons to 105.

The latest companies added to the banned list include energy and steel distribution firms and financial companies.

The latest individual to be added is Babak Zanjani, owner of the Sorinet Group, based in the United Arab Emirates. He is referred to as "a key facilitator for Iranian oil deals and transferring oil-related money".

Iran says its nuclear project has only peaceful energy purposes and has refused in three rounds of talks since April to scale back its uranium enrichment activity unless major economic sanctions are rescinded.

(Editing by John Stonestreet)

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Comments (6)
boreal wrote:
The remotely controlled Zionist octopus of the EU branch fatefully executes a variation of the by now well-rehearsed and successful Gaza kind chokehold on Iran. If it would come to an EU wide referendum, what proportion of 500 million would go along with this economic blockade that one day my blossom into a possible military action against Iran; because Israel wants to keep its nuclear arsenal unchecked, uninspected? Of course Israel does not need to convince halve a billion EU citizens individually. It’s sufficient if only the top leadership like in the US is “encouraged”.

Dec 22, 2012 10:44am EST  --  Report as abuse
Logical123 wrote:
Stupid EU and USA can impose all the sanction on Iran that they want. These sanctions have no effect on Iran’s nuclear program, which is peaceful from all evidence.

Iran has become immune to sanctions and is gearing its industry to produce indigenous products to replace imported European goods. American goods are already banned anyway.

Also, China is going to continue importing oil from Iran and other Asian importers are expected to do likewise. So, what more sanctions can these idiots impose on Iran? They look like absolute fools.

Dec 22, 2012 12:52pm EST  --  Report as abuse
kenradke11 wrote:
It aint gonna work. Sanctions are biting but Iran really doesn’t care about its own people obviously or they would be back at the bargaining table by now! You got to go in there and blast their nuclear facilities now!
Too little too late seems to be what is happening there and Iran’s intimidation should not shake up the international community because Iran’s military has no bite in it.

Dec 22, 2012 1:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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