Wednesday, May 23, 2018

EU toughens sanctions on Iran over nuke program

BRUSSELS — The European Union toughened sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program Monday, banning trade in industries like finance, metals and natural gas, and making other business transactions far more cumbersome.

The measures were the latest in a long series of sanctions from Europe, the United States and the U.N. Security Council, and were evidence of the worsening damage to Iran's economy.

In a joint statement, EU foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, expressed "serious and deepening concerns over Iran's nuclear program." They added that in continuing to enrich uranium, despite Western concerns that it is aiming for a bomb, Iran was "acting in flagrant violation of its international obligations."

Ahead of the meeting, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said: "We want to see a negotiated agreement. But we will continue to keep up the pressure."

Ashton represents six major powers, including the United States, in nuclear talks with the Iranians. There have been five rounds of discussions since late 2010, the last of which ended in frustration in June. Ashton said the major powers would keep in contact with Saeed Jalili, Iran's negotiator, to assess when to convene another meeting.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has described the Western sanctions as economic warfare, said the latest measures were nothing new.

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