Monday, November 29, 1999

EU hits Iran with tougher sanctions over nuclear row

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European leaders today imposed new sanctions on Iran that went even further than UN punitive measures in a bid to pile pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme, diplomatic sources said.The new European Union sanctions include a ban on new investment, technical assistance and technology transfers to Iran's key gas and oil industry, particularly as regards refining and liquefied natural gas, according to the text.Iran has the world's second-largest reserves of natural gas and is OPEC's second largest oil exporter. Global energy majors have come under increased international pressure over their activities in the country.The new EU measures also target the Islamic Republic's transportation, banking and insurance sectors and slaps new visa bans and asset freezes on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.The move came the day after the United States added Iranian individuals and firms to a blacklist and one week after the UN Security Council slapped its fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt nuclear activities.In an agreed text the EU leaders expressed their"deepening concerns about Iran's nuclear programme."Tehran says the programme is purely for civilian purposes, but Israel and Western powers fear it may be trying to develop nuclear weapons that would tip the balance of power in the Middle East.

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