BRUSSELS — The European Union on Thursday adopted new sanctions against Iran, the latest in a series of measures taken by the international community in an effort to halt the country's nuclear program.
The restrictions come on top of a fourth round of sanctions imposed last week by the U.N. Security Council to curtail Iran's nuclear program over fears it is developing weapons. The council endorsed those sanctions after Iran rebuffed a plan to suspend uranium enrichment and swap its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium for fuel rods.
A statement said the sanctions will target dual-use items that could be used as part of a nuclear program, as well as Iran's oil and gas industry — including the "prohibition of new investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies."
Iran's shipping and air cargo companies will be blacklisted and banned from operating in EU territory, and new visa bans and asset freezes will be imposed on Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The sanctions also encompass trade insurance and financial transactions.
The measures are meant to strengthen past embargoes imposed by the EU in response to U.N. Security Council resolutions.
They are also in line with similar measures adopted by the Obama administration, which imposed penalties Wednesday against additional individuals and institutions it says are helping Iran develop its nuclear and missile programs and evade international sanctions.
But Russia — which last week supported the fourth round of sanctions in the Security Council — on Thursday denounced the additional U.S. and EU measures. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said unilateral sanctions are eroding international efforts to settle the Iranian nuclear standoff and that the U.S. and EU moves demonstrate Western disregard of Russia's opinion.
The United States, Israel and the EU fear that Iran will continue to upgrade its uranium enrichment program until it can produce a nuclear weapon. Iran vehemently denies the charge, saying that its program is only intended solely for peaceful purposes such as energy-generation.