The European Union called for new sanctions against Iran over concerns about its nuclear program Friday. The announcement comes after Canada closed its embassy in Iran earlier in the day.
Britain, France and Germany have voiced their concerns over Iran's nuclear program at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Cyprus, asking for new sanctions to be put in place.
"We are in a serious situation," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. "We will not accept a nuclear weapon for Iran."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested that the new measures could be aimed at Iran's financial, oil and trade sectors, but did not give further details. "We will discuss in the next days the details of strengthening sanctions," he said.
The EU last placed sanctions on Iran in July, when it laid down a damaging oil embargo on the country. The penalty added to American financial sanctions aimed at ending Iran's oil exports, which account for half of government revenues.
The Iranian government denies the western allegations that its nuclear activities are geared towards weapons capabilities, saying their work is for peaceful, energy purposes.
Canada suspends diplomatic ties with Iran
The move for more sanctions comes after the Canadian government closed its embassy in Tehran and expelled all diplomatic personnel from Ottawa on the same day, with the foreign affairs minister calling Iran the "most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."
"Diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran have been suspended," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said. "All Canadian diplomatic staff have left Iran, and Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been instructed to leave within five days."
Canada did not indicate what exactly led to the sudden severing of relations with the Islamic Republic. But in a strongly worded statement, Baird accused Iran of "incitement to genocide" against Israel, a close Canadian ally. The foreign minister also said that Tehran was supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in his bid to crush the uprising in Syria.
Baird also accused the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of promoting international terrorism and failing to account for its controversial nuclear program. Western nations have accused Iran of using its atomic power program as a front to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Iran denies.
Although there was no immediate reaction from the Iranian government, the Islamic Republic had threatened "reciprocal action" in May 2012 when Canada closed the visa section in the Iranian embassy.
There are some 120,000 people of Iranian origin living in Canada. The two nations have butted heads over Tehran's treatment of dual citizens when they try to enter Iran. The Islamic Republic does not recognize dual citizenship.
The United States has not had official diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979-1981 hostage crisis in which 52 Americans were held in Tehran for 444 days. Britain closed its embassy in Iran in November 2011 after it was stormed by protesters.
slk/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)