EU to step up Iran sanctions over nuclear fears

EU foreign ministers are expected to step up sanctions against Iran, targeting trade and investment over concerns about the country’s nuclear programme.

The latest sanctions are wider than those agreed by the UN Security Council on Wednesday that included permitting countries to inspect vessels suspected of bringing banned goods to Iran.

EU diplomats said the new measures had become inevitable given the fact that Iran did not fully accept the proposals brokered by Turkey and Brazil and its decision to increase enrichment of uranium, bringing it closer to nuclear weapon use.

Ministers are expected to agree to target dual-use goods that could be used for both civilian and military purposes.

They will look at increasing restrictions on trade insurance and banking and the freezing of additional Iranian banks.

They aim to ban new investment in the gas and oil industry, and technology transfers. In transport they want to target the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line, which the US says is involved with Iran’s defence industry, and air cargo.

They also aim to extend visa bans and freeze assets of Iranian officials, especially members of the Revolutionary Guard.

Once agreed by the ministers, the leaders of EU states are expected to adopt the measures formally at their summit next Thursday.

The foreign ministers will also push to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza and consider setting up a mechanism where goods would be vetted by EU or other officials and delivered to the 1.4 million inhabitants virtually cut off from the outside world for the past three years.

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