October 16, 2012

EU Sanctions Iranian Oil, Gas

Tightens measures on banks

European Union governments hit Iran with new sanctions on its oil and gas and toughened some that were already in place on the country’s banks.

Reuters reported that the Tuesday action was taken after a Monday decision that, among other things, banned natural gas imports to Europe and cracked down on EU companies that cooperate with Iran's shipbuilding industry. Those measures were in addition to tougher restrictions on the country’s central bank and new actions against major Iranian state companies in the oil and gas industry.

The EU's Official Journal has listed more than 30 entities as targets for asset freezes in Europe. Among them are the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), one of the largest exporters of crude oil in the world, and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC).

Last month the U.S., which has already blacklisted NITC, imposed its own sanctions on NIOC, saying that it is linked with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran's elite force. The Treasury Department has said that the Revolutionary Guards have put together a campaign to sell Iranian oil as the country tries to get around Western sanctions.

The 27 members of the EU decided on the new sanctions Monday on the Iranian industry, banking and energy sectors in the hope that the country will be persuaded to negotiate a halt on its nuclear program.

Both the EU and the U.S., neither of which imports Iranian oil, are trying to cut Iran’s sales elsewhere and thereby restrict the country’s access to cash. They hope to compel Iran to cease its nuclear program, which the country insists is solely for peaceful purposes but other nations suspect is aimed toward building nuclear weapons. Iran, for its part, says that it will do nothing to hinder its nuclear program until after all sanctions are lifted.

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