European Union foreign ministers are discussing imposing sanctions on Iranian oil exports bound for Europe as they meet in Brussels on December 1. However, there are worries that any bans could hit Europe’s struggling economy. European Union countries accounted for 18 percent of Iranian crude oil sales in the first half of 2011, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The meeting comes after a new International Atomic Energy Agency report highlighted concerns over the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear programme. The details of the report triggered a new wave of sanctions and threats against Iran after elements were leaked to the media in November.
Below is a summary of how events have played out since the leak of the IAEA’s findings.
Britain and France, in a joint statement, called for new, tougher sanctions to be imposed on Iran unless Tehran cooperates over its nuclear programme.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France would support boosting sanctions to an “unprecedented scale” if Iran stonewalls investigations.
“Moscow opposes strengthening sanctions pressure on Iran”, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister said.
The European Union may approve fresh sanctions against Iran within weeks, EU diplomats said to the Reuters news agency.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said opposition to fresh sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme by some countries was “regrettable”.
“Harsh sanctions are unavoidable if Iran continues refusing to work with the IAEA,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters.
The IAEA passed a resolution expressing “deep and increasing concern” about Iran’s nuclear activities, but the UN’s nuclear watchdog did not refer it to the UN Security Council.
Switzerland added 116 names to its list of Iranian entities under sanctions.
A White House statement said that the United States will continue to place pressure on the Iranian regime until Iran chooses to depart from “its current path of international isolation”.
Canada banned the export to Iran of all goods used in the petrochemical, oil and gas industries.
Canada announced new sanctions against Iran that target “virtually all transactions”, including with its central bank.
The UK imposed new sanctions against Iran which would order all British financial institutions to stop any business with Iranian banks, including the central bank of Iran.
The US Treasury Department named the Central Bank of Iran and the entire Iranian banking system as a “primary money laundering concern”. The US government, however, did not impose any formal sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.
The Obama administration announced sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry, prohibiting US companies from providing goods, services and technology to support Iran’s production of petrochemicals.
The US government also designated 11 individuals and business entities for sanctions because of their alleged roles in assisting Iran’s “prohibited nuclear programs”.
European Union governments agreed in principle to extend sanctions against Iran by adding some 200 names to a target list of people and entities, diplomats said to the Reuters news agency.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters that sanctions would not solve the Iranian nuclear issue.
France’s foreign ministry first suggested and then back-tracked on the imposition of a unilateral ban on oil from Iran, making clear it would only act over Iran’s nuclear programme as part of an EU-wide plan.
Britain expects to announce sanctions on further Iranian “entities and individuals” at a European Union foreign ministers’ meeting on December 1, the British Foreign Office said.
Italy believes sanctions should be tightened against Iran, and is seeking to persuade its companies to stop buying Iranian oil, the spokesman for Italy’s Foreign Ministry said.
With AFP and Reuters