EU leaders approve fresh sanctions against Iran

Image caption,
Iran says its nuclear programme is aimed solely at peaceful energy use

European Union leaders have approved a new set of sanctions against Iran that go further than the latest United Nations measures.

The fresh EU sanctions include a ban on investments, technical assistance and technology transfers to Iran's key oil and gas industry.

On Wednesday, the US announced its own fresh sanctions, implementing the UN measures approved last week.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons - which Tehran denies.

The new EU sanctions were approved on Thursday by a summit in Brussels.

In a statement, the leaders expressed regret "that Iran has not taken the many opportunities which have been offered to it to remove the concerns of the international community over the nature of the Iranian nuclear programme".

Iran's shipping and air cargo companies will also be banned from operating in EU territory, and new visa bans and asset freezes will target Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Russian objections

The new EU sanctions will now be passed on to experts who will work out which companies and products would be targeted.

Correspondents say the move will put strong pressure on Iran, which is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, but has limited refining capability.

On Thursday Russia criticised the EU's planned sanctions.

"We are extremely disappointed that neither the United States nor the European Union is heeding our calls to refrain from such steps," Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

The US sanctions announced on Wednesday ban Americans from trading with a number of firms and individuals, including Iran's Post Bank, Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi and the air force and missile command of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On 10 June the Security Council endorsed a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran, including tighter financial curbs and an expanded arms embargo.

The US has banned most trade with Iran since 1979, when Iranian student stormed the American embassy and took diplomats hostage.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the vote as "a used handkerchief" fit for the dustbin.

Tehran has rejected calls by the Security Council to halt uranium enrichment - which could have military as well as civilian uses.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely designed to produce energy.