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EU agrees on new set of Iran sanctions

European foreign ministers agreed Monday to recommend a package of additional sanctions against Iran over that country's disputed nuclear program.
/ Source: The Associated Press

European foreign ministers agreed Monday to recommend a package of additional sanctions against Iran over that country's disputed nuclear program.

The move came after EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton invited Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to discuss the nuclear issue.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the new set of sanctions go beyond those recently adopted by the U.N. Security Council.

Westerwelle told reporters the new sanctions would focus on areas of trade, especially on so-called dual-use items which could be utilized as part of the nuclear program. They would include further restrictions on trade insurance and financial transactions, and would target Iran's transport sector particularly its shipping and air cargo operators.

Some investments in the oil industry would also be affected, Westerwelle said without elaborating further.

"Some (European) companies ask what does that mean for their business, but what would nuclear bombs in the hands of Iran cost us," Westerwelle asked. "We have to contribute our own European measures in addition to the security council sanctions to press Iran back to the negotiation table.

Iran's most powerful military force, the Revolutionary Guard, said Monday it was not worried by the latest U.N. sanctions that seek to undercut its reach and stall the country's nuclear program.

The defiant remarks by senior Guard commander Gen. Hossein Salami were the group's first reaction since the Security Council last week imposed the toughest sanctions yet in response to Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

The Guard has a direct hand in Iran's nuclear research as well as nearly ever critical economic and defense project, including missile technology and Iran's vital oil industry.

If EU heads of government meeting Thursday endorse the measures adopted in Luxembourg, these will be passed on to government experts to work out the specifics of which companies and products would be targeted and how.

The new U.N. sanctions seek to disrupt the Guard's money flow and areas of influence. They call for an asset freeze on 40 additional companies and organizations: 15 linked to the Guard, 22 involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities.

The sanctions came after months of efforts to press Iran to accept a U.N.-drafted plan to swap low-enriched uranium for reactor-ready fuel. Iran, instead, responded last month with a separate plan backed by Turkey and Brazil, but it did not mandate a halt on uranium enrichment sought by the West and allies.

The United States and other nations fear that Iran will continue to upgrade its uranium enrichment program until it can produce a nuclear weapon. Iran says it only seeks energy and research reactors and has the right to enrich uranium under international accords.