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William Hague: EU Broadens Economic Sanctions Against Iran

Lisa Bryant

December 1, 2011

European Union foreign ministers agreed to broaden sanctions against Iran Thursday and condemned this week's mob attack on Britain's embassy in Tehran. EU member states are divided about extending the sanctions to Iran's oil sector.

The European Union added dozens of Iranian officials and companies to its blacklist and EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday considered other sanctions against Iran.

At a news conference, European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also read out a statement condemning the assault by Iranian protesters against Britain's embassy in Tehran on Tuesday. "The council is outraged by the attack on the British embassy in Tehran and utterly condemns it. It also deplores the decision to expel the British ambassador from Tehran. The council considers these actions against the UK as actions against the European Union as a whole," she said.

Ashton said EU members are considering further sanctions against Tehran, but exactly what form they will take remains unclear. European officials stress the sanctions are not in retaliation for the embassy attack, but rather respond to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency which warned of a possible "military dimension" to Iran's nuclear program. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes only.

"This is part of our ongoing concern about the report form the IAEA we discussed last time, and the desire for us to see Iran take seriously the international community's call for it to respect its obligations and to move away from its pursuit of nuclear weapons technology," she said.

Iran's already tense ties with the international community have further deteriorated since the IAEA's latest report and the embassy attack. Britain is closing its embassy in Tehran and Iran's embassy in London. France, Germany and the Netherlands have also withdrawn their envoys from Tehran. Norway said it was closing its embassy as a precaution.

In remarks before the Brussels meeting, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he would be pushing for sanctions against Iranian financial institutions, measures which Britain, the United States and Canada have already agreed on. "So the financial sector, following that up within the European Union and focusing on the financial sector is the prime focus of what I'm putting forward to my colleagues," he said.

But EU countries are divided over whether to slap sanctions against Iran's oil sector, with Greece objecting to such a move. Sweden has also questioned the effectiveness of such energy sanctions. EU ministers also extended sanctions against Syrian individuals and businesses during the Brussels meeting.

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