EU approves new sanctions on Iran

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BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union leaders on Thursday adopted a new set of sanctions against Iran in a further effort to stall its disputed nuclear program.

The restrictions, which come on top of sanctions already imposed by the U.N. Security Council, were approved during a summit focused primarily on economic issues, spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

A statement said the sanctions target dual-use items that could be used as part of a nuclear program, and Iran’s oil and gas industry — including the “prohibition of new investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies.”

Iran’s shipping and air cargo companies will be banned from operating in EU territory, and new visa bans and asset freezes will be imposed on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The sanctions also encompass trade insurance and financial transactions.

The measures are meant to strengthen other embargoes imposed by the EU in response to past U.N. Security Council resolutions. Last week, the council adopted its own sanctions after Iran rebuffed a plan to suspend uranium enrichment and swap its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium for fuel rods.

They are also in line with similar measures adopted by the Obama administration, which imposed penalties Wednesday against additional individuals and institutions it says are helping Iran develop its nuclear and missile programs and evade international sanctions.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday that Europe needed to play a full role in the international effort to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

This means “making sure that we have a strong package of sanctions against Iran,” he said. “We believe it is incredibly important.”

The new EU sanctions will now be passed on to government technical experts to work out the specifics of which companies and products would be targeted, and how. This could be a tricky procedure, given the different economic interests of EU countries involved.

Officials predicted the procedure would last a month before the final list is endorsed by EU foreign ministers at their next meeting at the end of July.

The U.N. is seeking to disrupt the money flow to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Its new sanctions call for an asset freeze on 40 additional companies and organizations involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.

The United States, Israel and the EU fear that Iran will continue to upgrade its uranium enrichment program until it can produce a nuclear weapon. Iran says it seeks to develop fuel only for its energy and research reactors, and that it has the right to enrich uranium under the international nonproliferation treaty.

Iran has dismissed the impact of sanctions, vowing to expand its atomic research program.

On Thursday, the country’s defense minister said the new sanctions would not affect Iran’s armed forces because the country is militarily self-sufficient.

“We are not seeking arms. We have the capability to export,” Gen. Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying on the website of Iran’s state TV.

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