The European Union has included Iran’s state-owned Bank Tejarat among entities it is blacklisting to raise pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program, according to an EU document published on Tuesday.
EU governments agreed on Monday to an immediate ban on all new contracts to import, buy or transport Iranian crude oil, and to freeze the assets of Iran’s central bank. They also agreed to ban all trade in diamonds, gold and other precious metals with the central bank and other public bodies.
The EU said that Bank Tejarat had directly facilitated Iran’s nuclear efforts, for example by helping in the movement last year of tens of millions of dollars in an effort to assist Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization to acquire yellowcake uranium.
Bank Tejarat also has a history of helping designated Iranian banks circumvent international sanctions, the EU said.
By providing financial services to other banks, Bank Tejarat has also supported the activities of subsidiaries and subordinates of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian military organizations, the EU said.
Western powers hope the far stricter sanctions it has now imposed, bringing the EU more closely into line with U.S. policy, will force Iran to scale back or halt its nuclear work, which Western powers believe is aimed at developing weapons. Iran says it is enriching uranium solely for peaceful purposes.
The EU’s move to slap an embargo on Iranian oil, along with new U.S. measures in response to Tehran’s suspect nuclear drive, appeared to have an immediate effect and brought swift condemnation from Tehran.
The Iranian currency, the rial, tumbled to a record low against the dollar on Monday, after several months of steady declines.
According to one senior Treasury official, the Iranian currency has lost more than 70 percent of its value against the dollar since autumn.
Oil prices were also up modestly Monday after the EU announced its embargo on Iran’s crude exports with Brent North Sea crude for March climbing 72 cents to $110.58 a barrel in London.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast denounced “the method of threat, pressure and unfair sanctions.”
The hawkish government of Iran’s arch-foe Israel appeared reassured but Tehran’s ally Russia warned “unilateral sanctions” could be counter-productive, preventing Iran “from making any concessions or corrections.”
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said on Tuesday his country would follow the European Union in banning Iranian oil imports, after talks with his British counterpart in London.
“The actions taken in Brussels yesterday on sanctions by the European Union, we in Australia will undertake precisely the same parallel action for Australia,” Rudd said after talks with William Hague.
“It is not just that we endorse the action taken in Brussels for Europe; we of course will do the same for Australia.
“The reason is very clear - the message needs to be delivered to the people of Iran, the wider political elites of Iran, as well as the government of Iran, that their behavior is globally unacceptable.”
At the press conference in London, Rudd said Australia’s oil embargo was likely to have only a limited impact, saying: “On the question of our own imports of Iranian oil, they have become negligible over time.”