West hits Tehran with sanctions on oil, finance

West hits Tehran with sanctions on oil, finance

West hits Tehran with sanctions on oil, finance

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (L) announce new sanctions against Iran at the State Department on Nov 21. AFP photo

The United States, Britain and Canada have announced new sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors after a United Nations report about Iran’s nuclear program. Meanwhile, France has called on international partners to impose a freeze of Iran’s Central Bank’s assets and an oil embargo.

Notably, the measures seek to limit the West’s links with Iran’s Central Bank, which has been a key player in funneling proceeds of energy sales to Iran’s government. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unveiling what she called a “significant ratcheting up of pressure on Iran,” said the United States was targeting Iran’s energy sector directly for the first time, Agence France-Presse reported.

Sanctions will be on Iran’s petrochemical industry, prohibiting U.S. companies from providing goods, services and technology to support Iran’s production of petrochemicals, Associated Press reported. This industry represents Iran’s second biggest export after crude oil.

‘Tit-for-tat reaction’

Britain was the first to make the sanctions public early Nov. 21, with Finance Minister George Osborne saying London was cutting links with Iranian banks. In Ottawa, House Leader Peter Van Loan announced measures that would “block virtually all transactions with Iran, including those with the Central Bank.” France went one step further, calling on international partners to impose a freeze of Iran’s Central Bank’s assets and an oil embargo, but did not announce sanctions.

The European Union is eyeing sanctions on some 200 Iranian firms and individuals, diplomatic sources said yesterday. “More than 200 names are to be added to a list” of Iranians already targeted by a visa ban and businesses facing an asset freeze, which would be announced by EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Dec. 1, the sources said.

Iran dismissed a new wave of sanctions yesterday, saying the West’s attempts to isolate its economy would only serve to unite Iranians behind their government’s nuclear program. “Such measures are condemned by our people and will have no impact and be in vain,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Iran would hit back, Reuters reported. “This will not go unanswered and we will review our ties with them ... there will be a tit-for-tat reaction,” he said. Russia condemned what it said were “extraterritorial measures unacceptable and contradictory to international law.”

Meanwhile, Russia joined the U.S. and Britain yesterday in backing Israel’s view that the Middle East cannot be turned into a nuclear arms-free zone without progress on regional peace.

Additional Reuters and AFP reports from Moscow and Brussels were used in this story.