- Associated Press - Monday, October 15, 2012

LUXEMBOURG — The European Union, concerned by what it called Iran’s refusal to come clean on its suspected nuclear weapons program, imposed a new range of sanctions Monday intended to hit the country’s treasury and increase pressure on its Islamic regime.

A leading European satellite provider, meanwhile, took 19 Iranian television and radio broadcasters off the air Monday in a cutoff tied to the sanctions.

The move prompted accusations of censorship and threats of lawsuits from Iranian state television.

Foreign ministers from the 27 EU member countries, meeting in Luxembourg, said Iran is “acting in flagrant violation of its international obligations” and is still refusing to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency to address international concerns.

Many countries fear that Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons, but Iranian officials claim the country’s nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes.

A statement by the EU foreign ministers said they had approved “additional restrictive measures in the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors” against Iran as well as imposing asset freezes and trade restrictions on more companies, notably those “active in the oil and gas industry.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the ministers had banned the import of Iranian natural gas into EU nations.

The EU ministers also agreed to tightened restrictions on the Central Bank of Iran and to prohibit all transactions between EU and Iranian banks unless they were authorized in advance for humanitarian reasons.

They imposed more export restrictions “notably for graphite, metals, software for industrial purposes, as well as measures related to the shipbuilding industry.”

Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the Iranian Resistance — a group that seeks the overthrow of the theocratic regime’s — welcomed the decision to expand sanctions as “an essential step to preclude this regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

She asked the EU to sever all economic and commercial relations with the religious fascism ruling Iran.

An affiliated group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, said it had learned from people inside the country that the Iranian government is getting around the sanctions against oil exports by using banks’ money-changing operations as well as divisions of the National Iranian Oil Co.

In Washington, the Obama administration praised the EU for expanding the sanctions.

“This action … further strengthens international efforts to pressure and isolate the Iranian government,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

On the broadcasting cutoff, Iranians still have access to most of the channels, which are operated by the Iranian state broadcaster Irib, but they are no longer broadcast in Europe and elsewhere.

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