EU Increases Economic Pressures on Iran

Posted December 1st, 2011 at 2:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The European Union has tightened economic pressures on Iran because of its controversial nuclear program.

EU ministers meeting in Brussels Thursday agreed to expand the number of individuals and businesses targeted in existing sanctions. They also agreed to consider future penalties against Iran’s transportation and vital energy sectors.

Diplomats said 180 Iranian officials and companies will be affected by the new penalties. Western powers suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons although Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

The EU also denounced a Tuesday attack on British diplomatic facilities in Tehran. Protesters smashed windows and ransacked offices at the sites.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton read a statement on behalf of the group after the meeting.

“The council is outraged by the attack on the British embassy in Tehran and utterly condemns it.”

Britain responded by announcing it is expelling Iranian diplomats. It also shut its embassy in Tehran.

Iran’s Fars News Agency says Iranian authorities have released 11 protesters who had been detained for storming the British compounds. There was no immediate explanation for the release.

The news agency also says Iran is near a decision to expel British diplomats in Tehran.

On Thursday, Italy joined France, Germany and the Netherlands and announced it is recalling its ambassador in Tehran for consultations.

Separately, the Reuters news agency quotes U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as saying there are no indications that Iranian authorities orchestrated the embassy attack. But, he said the incident is another example of why Iran is a “pariah.”

Tensions between Britain and Iran had escalated in recent days. The Iranian parliament voted earlier this week to downgrade diplomatic relations with London. Its vote followed Britain’s decision to strengthen sanctions against Iran by cutting all links with its banks.

Iran said Thursday that its embassy in Bern, Switzerland had been attacked. The state-run news agency IRNA says two young men threw stones and flammable devices at the facility late Wednesday.