EU tightens sanctions against Iran after embassy attack
BERLIN — The European Union announced tightened sanctions against Iran on Thursday in the aftermath of the storming of Britain’s Tehran embassy, adding 180 Iranian officials and companies to a blacklist that freezes their assets and bans travel to member states.
But the measures fell well short of demands by Britain and France for an embargo on oil purchases from Iran, one of the world’s leading producers. Greece, a European Union member and a significant buyer of Iranian oil, expressed strong resistance to that step, and China, one of Iran’s biggest customers for oil, warned the Europeans against what it called “emotionally charged actions” to punish Iran in response to the British embassy attack.
The developments at a European Union ministerial meeting in Brussels came as new details emerged regarding the scale of destruction at the British embassy and a British diplomatic residential facility in Tehran on Tuesday by Iranian protesters — apparently aligned with the government-controlled Basij militia — angry over the West’s economic sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear weapons program.
Reuters reported from Tehran that Western diplomats who had toured the British facilities 24 hours after the assault reported “devastating” damage and that the ambassador’s personal residence had been “systematically destroyed.”
Britain’s government withdrew its diplomats from Iran on Wednesday, ordered Iran to close its embassy in London and gave Iranian diplomats a 48-hour deadline to vacate Britain, officially downgrading relations with Iran to the lowest possible, short of a formal break.
British leaders also accused Iran’s Islamic hierarchy of approving the assault on the British diplomatic facilities in Tehran, which evoked images of the Iranian takeover of the U.S. Embassy there more than 30 years ago. At least four other European countries have closed their Tehran embassies since Tuesday as a precaution.
According to a statement released by the Council of the European Union, the foreign ministers meeting in Brussels said the tightened sanctions “target entities and individuals directly involved in Iran’s nuclear activities, which are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.” The statement also said the ministers would look at additional ways in coming weeks to broaden existing sanctions aimed at Iran’s financial system, transport sector, energy sector and the Revolutionary Guard, a segment of the Iran armed forces that Western nations suspect is the overseer of a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
The group of foreign ministers also condemned the attack on the British diplomatic facilities in Tehran, saying that the council “considers these actions taken against the U.K. as actions against the European Union as a whole. The EU is taking appropriate measures in response.”