EU foreign ministers agreed yesterday to apply UN sanctions on Iran "in full and without delay" and if necessary go further than a UN list in targeting those linked to Teheran's nuclear work.
The EU move is the latest step by the West to ratchet up pressure on Iran to halt uranium enrichment after US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice was quoted at the weekend as warning companies of the risks of doing business with Iran.
Teheran maintains that its nuclear ambitions are limited to generating electricity. The EU and the United States suspect Teheran is secretly seeking to build nuclear bombs.
They say it will face harsher sanctions if it ignores the resolution unanimously passed on December 23 at the behest of the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France. The resolution gave Iran 60 days to suspend nuclear fuel-enrichment activity.
EU ministers called on "all countries to implement the measures in full and without delay," according to a statement released at the meeting.
The UN sanctions resolution bans transfers of sensitive nuclear materials to Iran, freezes financial assets of those associated with the nuclear program and asks countries to pass on information about the whereabouts of individuals on the list.
EU foreign ministers agreed to slap travel and asset freezes on all individuals covered by the criteria, as well as stopping them from carrying out transactions with the bloc.
They also vowed to prevent Iranian nationals studying proliferation-sensitive subjects within the EU in a move that would potentially go beyond the UN sanctions, diplomats said.
The EU has led international diplomacy based on an offer made last June of trade, political and technical incentives for Iran to give up uranium enrichment, and ministers confirmed the offer remained on the table.
38 UN inspectors barred
Iran has barred 38 inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), from entering the country, an Iranian politician was quoted by Iran's ISNA news agency as saying yesterday.
The agency said the move was a "first step" in limiting cooperation with the IAEA, in line with a demand made by parliament after UN sanctions were imposed on Iran a month ago.
Last year Iran temporarily denied visas to some inspectors and curtailed the frequency of visits to facilities by inspectors already in the country.
"Iran has decided not to give entry permission to 38 inspectors from the IAEA and has announced this limitation to the IAEA officially," the head of the parliament's Foreign Affairs and National Security Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said.
(China Daily January 23, 2007)