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Europe

EU Passes New Iran Sanctions, Bans Iranian Bank

European Union ministers have passed a fresh set of sanctions against Iran, prohibiting the country's largest bank from operating in Europe and adding to the list of banned individuals and organizations.

Graphic of an Iranian flag, and EU flag and an atomic symbol

The EU turned up sanctions after Solana's negotiations with Tehran proved fruitless

EU ministers agreed to the sanctions in Luxemburg on Monday, June 23.

The measures will force Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank, to cease operations at its offices in London, Hamburg and Paris. The institution is involved in a large number of business deals between Europe and Iran.

In a March resolution, the UN Security Council had warned its members to be alert toward all Iranian banks in order to prevent them from supporting problematic nuclear activities.

Twenty individuals and 15 organizations with connections to Iran's nuclear and weapons programs were also added to the EU's visa-ban and asset-freeze lists. Specific are reportedly to be made public on Tuesday.

Bank Melli in Hamburg

Bank Melli in Hamburg will have to close its doors

Sextet awaits Tehran's response

The EU sanctions, which expand on existing UN measures, aim to convince Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. While the international community suspects that Iran is planning nuclear weapons, Tehran has consistently denied this, saying its nuclear program is used for domestic energy purposes only.

The sanctions, which had been in the pipeline since May, were stalled by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's trip to Iran earlier this month. Solana presented a cooperation proposal on behalf of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US, which involved offering Iran technological incentives in exchange for halting its uranium enrichment program.

The foreign policy chief said Friday that he had not yet received a response from Tehran, though top Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said the possibility of Iran suspending uranium enrichment had not been discussed with Solana.

Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush brought up the issues of sanctions against Iran during the EU-US summit in Brdo, Slovenia, as the US had been eagerly awaiting stricter action from the 27-member bloc.

EU wants to continue talks

Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, right, welcomes EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, for a meeting in Tehran

Solana met with Iran's top nuclear negotiator earlier this month

Also on Monday, the EU emphasized its interest in continuing diplomatic negotiations with Tehran.

Although the deal presented by Solana is dependent on Iran fully halting its uranium enrichment program, the foreign policy chief has proposed a time of preliminary talks: Tehran would agree not to set up new centrifuges, while the international community would not pile on additional sanctions.

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