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EU agrees new sanctions for Iran

The EU has imposed a new range of sanctions on Iran intended to hit the country's treasury and increase pressure on its Islamic regime over its nuclear programme.

Foreign ministers from the 27 EU member countries, meeting in Luxembourg, said Iran was "acting in flagrant violation of its international obligations" and was still refusing to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency to address international concerns.

Many countries fear that Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons but Iranian officials say it is intended for peaceful purposes.

A statement by the EU foreign ministers said they had approved "additional restrictive measures in the financial, trade, energy and transport sectors" against Iran as well as imposing asset freezes and trade restrictions on more companies, notably those "active in the oil and gas industry."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said they had banned the import of Iranian natural gas into EU nations.

They also agreed to prohibit all transactions between EU and Iranian banks unless they were authorised in advance for humanitarian reasons and tightened restrictions on the Central Bank of Iran.

They imposed more export restrictions "notably for graphite, metals, software for industrial purposes, as well as measures related to the shipbuilding industry."

Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the Iranian Resistance - a group that seeks the Iran's regime's overthrow - welcomed the decision to expand sanctions as "an essential step to preclude this regime from acquiring nuclear weapons." She asked the EU to sever all economic and commercial relations with the religious fascism ruling Iran.

An affiliated group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, said it had learned from people inside the country that the Iranian government was using banks' money-changing operations as well as divisions of the National Iranian Oil Company to get around the sanctions against oil exports.

On his way into the meeting, Foreign Secretary William Hague said new sanctions would be "a sign of our resolve in the European Union that we will step up the pressure." He said such pressure would continue to mount "over the coming months unless negotiations succeed. We remain open of course to success of negotiations."

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