EU adds Iran's Bank Tejarat to sanctions list

BRUSSELS, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The European Union has included Iran’s state-owned Bank Tejarat among entities it is blacklisting to raise pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme, according to an EU document published on Tuesday.

EU governments agreed on Monday to an immediate ban on all new contracts to import, buy or transport Iranian crude oil, and to freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank. They also agreed to ban all trade in diamonds, gold and other precious metals with the central bank and other public bodies.

The EU said that Bank Tejarat had directly facilitated Iran’s nuclear efforts, for example by helping in the movement last year of tens of millions of dollars in an effort to assist Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation to acquire yellowcake uranium.

Bank Tejarat also has a history of helping designated Iranian banks circumvent international sanctions, the EU said.

By providing financial services to other banks, Bank Tejarat has also supported the activities of subsidiaries and subordinates of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian military organizations, the EU said.

Western powers hope the far stricter sanctions it has now imposed, bringing the EU more closely into line with U.S. policy, will force Iran to scale back or halt its nuclear work, which Western powers believe is aimed at developing weapons. Iran says it is enriching uranium solely for peaceful purposes.