* Second bank wins appeal against EU sanctions
* Appeals by Iranian oil company, central bank pending
* Nuclear talks due to resume this month
BRUSSELS, Feb 6 A European Union court has ruled
that the EU should lift sanctions it imposed on one of Iran's
largest banks, the second such judgment that could complicate
Western efforts to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic.
The ruling further weakens the EU's sanctions regime imposed
against Iran's nuclear programme, just weeks before six powers
are due to resume stalled negotiations with Iran aimed at
addressing fears that Tehran is seeking the bomb.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the EU's General Court said the EU
had failed to provide sufficient evidence that Bank Saderat was
involved in Iran's nuclear programme when the bloc targeted it
with sanctions in July 2010.
EU governments have two months to appeal. Last week, the
court issued a similar ruling about of Bank Mellat, the biggest
private sector lender in Iran.
When the EU imposed sanctions on Bank Saderat, it accused it
of providing "financial services for entities procuring on
behalf of Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes".
The court, however, said the claims were not sufficiently
"The Council (of EU governments) is in breach of the
obligation to state reasons and the obligation to disclose to
the applicant ... the evidence adduced against it," the court
said in its ruling.
The EU has severely tightened sanctions on Iran over the
last two years, seeking to pressure it to curb the nuclear
programme it fears is aimed at creating atomic bomb capability,
a charge Tehran denies.
More than 30 cases are still pending at the General Court,
including ones filed by the Central Bank of Iran and the
National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Those sanctions severely
affected Iran's ability to export oil and carry out
international financial transactions.
EU diplomats, who fear the rulings could undermine the
sanctions programme, say they face the challenge of providing
sufficient justification while not compromising intelligence
sources when they are drafting sanctions lists.
A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
said EU institutions would examine the ruling, but gave no
She is due to lead a delegation representing six world
powers in talks with Iran that resume in Kazakhstan on Feb. 26,
aimed at defusing the nuclear stand-off.