EU Increases Economic Pressures on Iran

Posted December 1st, 2011 at 11:20 am (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 would 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 condemned a Tuesday attack on two British diplomatic facilities in Tehran. Protesters smashed windows and ransacked offices at the sites.

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

British Foreign Secretary William Hague voiced support for a tough response from the EU as he headed into the meeting.

“I am very strongly impressed by the emphatic support of the rest of the European Union on this and against this grave violation of the Vienna Convention by Iran.”

Iran’s Fars News Agency says 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.

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 IRNA news agency says two young men threw stones and flammable devices at the facility late Wednesday.