The European Union has imposed tough new sanctions on Iran in a fresh effort to exert to pressure over its nuclear programme.
But Britain, France and Germany have also stressed that they are willing to negotiate if Tehran immediately suspends its atomic activities and respects its international obligations.
The EU’s foreign affairs chief also suggested the door remains open for talks to resolve the situation.
“I want to stress however that sanctions are not an end in themselves, I have often talked about this being part of a twin-track approach. The purpose of sanctions is to put pressure on Iran to come back to the negotiating table,” said Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
The move to ban all new contracts to import, buy or transport Iranian crude is designed to shut off its main source of foreign income.
Iran has described it as “psychological warfare” and warned it will worsen the stand-off over the Islamic state’s nuclear programme.
One minister even threatened the closure of the Strait of Hormuz but American, French and British warships all passed through on Monday without any incident.