European Union states agreed on Monday to impose new sanctions against Iran, including an asset freeze on its biggest bank, over its refusal to meet international pressure to curb its nuclear programme.
However the EU said the door remained open to possible talks over an international package of incentives for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment delivered to Tehran earlier this month by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
The new sanctions, coordinated with the United States at a summit earlier this month, will target businesses and individuals that the West alleges are linked to Iranian nuclear and ballistic programmes, an EU official said.
"The individuals will be banned from entering the EU and the entities will banned from operating in the EU," said the official, who wanted to remain anonymous, after EU ministers rubber-stamped the widely flagged measures at a meeting in Luxembourg.
The EU is due to publish the names of those affected on Tuesday but the official said Bank Melli would face an asset freeze under the moves, while the visa bans would target "very senior experts" inside Iran's nuclear and ballistic programmes.
The official stressed the sanctions were based on measures agreed by the U.N. Security Council and that the six powers -- the five permanent members of the Council plus Germany -- still sought an answer from Iran to their incentives offer.
"We are continuing with the double-track," the official said of the carrot-and-stick policy that has until now not induced Iran to curb a nuclear programme.
Iran's oil minister has put its windfall crude export earnings at $6 billion per month and acting economy minister Hossein Samsami said at the weekend existing sanctions were not having a major impact on the country's economy.
Iranian weekly Shahrvand-e Emrooz reported this month that Iran had withdrawn $75 billion from Europe to prevent the assets from being blocked, but Samsami played down such reports and insisted the situation was "as yet not serious".
Last Mod: 23 Haziran 2008, 16:12