Europeans stiffen sanctions on Iran after embassy attack

Posted Dec. 01, 2011, at 8:24 p.m.

PARIS — European nations, aroused by a mob attack on the British Embassy in Tehran, stiffened their sanctions against Iran on Thursday but stopped short of halting oil purchases from the increasingly isolated Islamic government.

The new sanctions targeted additional members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and businesses controlled by its members, according to an announcement after a European Union foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Belgium. In addition, the E.U. banned doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line.

The Revolutionary Guard, a military force controlled by Iran’s Shiite Muslim supreme leader, has been targeted before by U.S. and European sanctions. The decision Thursday added to the number of its members who are banned from doing business with E.U. countries or receiving visas to visit them.

As a result, it fell short of the tough new measures predicted by some diplomats Wednesday after young Iranian hard-liners ransacked two British diplomatic compounds in Iran. Some officials had predicted that the trashing of Britain’s embassy would be a turning point in efforts to reinforce Iran’s isolation and increase pressure on its government to abandon what Western nations and Israe l say is a program to develop nuclear weapons.

Nonetheless, British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed satisfaction with the decision, saying that the 180 Iranian people and organizations named in the new sanctions include some “directly associated with the nuclear program.”

“The E.U. made very clear that it will not bow to Iran’s intimidation and bullying tactics,” he added in a statement. “We will not back down and agreed today to work on further sanctions, including in the areas of finance and energy.”

In Washington, senators from both political parties chided the Obama administration Thursday for not moving faster to tighten the economic screws on Iran. One Republican lawmaker decried what he called an “enthusiasm gap” between the White House and Congress over a need to get tough with Iran.

After Tuesday’s attacks, Britain closed its embassy in Tehran and ordered the Iranians to close their embassy in London, saying the mob had been allowed to destroy embassy property as Iranian police looked on. In sympathy, France, Italy and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors for consultations, a diplomatic gesture that shows displeasure but allows their embassies to continue func tioning with lower-ranking diplomats.

Several European countries had sought to include in Thursday’s retaliatory measures a ban on oil purchases from Iran, which would have been a strong blow against the Islamic Republic’s main industry and foreign-exchange earner. But they failed to win enough support to approve the measure.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters in Brussels, Belgium, that Greece in particular objected to the proposal since it buys much of its petroleum from Iran. France and other governments will seek to identify other sources for Greece that would make the ban possible later, he suggested.

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