European Union governments on Tuesday imposed more sanctions against major Iranian state companies in the oil and gas industry, and strengthened restrictions on the central bank, revving up financial pressure on Tehran.
EU’s Official Journal has listed more than 30 firms and institutions as targets for freezing assets in the EU, including the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), a large crude exporter, and the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). Both are vital to the Iranian oil industry, the main source of revenue for the government.
However, Iran rejected the sanctions and insisted it would not work.
“We recommend that, instead of taking the wrong approach and being stubborn and using pressure, … with a logical approach they can return to discussions,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference.
NIOC and its tanker company was blacklisted by the US last month. The EU justified the decision and said both NIOC and NITC provide financial support to Iran’s government.
A senior NITC official claimed the EU argument was “baseless”, and said that the group was privatised in 2000 and was owned by three pension funds. In addition, he said, the poor state of the tanker market mean the company did not have money to spare.
“It is nonsense and it does not add up,” Reuters quoted an NITC official as saying from Tehran. “Our shareholders have control of the company. There is no government interference and there is no connection.”
The new listings follow a decision on Monday by the 27 EU governments to bring sweeping new sanctions against Iranian banking and energy sectors to try to draw Tehran into serious negotiations about its atom project.
A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said six powers negotiating with Iran were hoping to resume talks soon but that no more meetings had yet been scheduled.
“We focus our sanctions on those who are responsible for the (Iranian) nuclear programme, while at the same being open to talks,” Michael Mann told a regular news briefing in Brussels.
“We have always said we don’t do sanctions for their own sake.”
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is purely civilian and has vowed not to scale back activities unless sanctions are lifted.
In Tuesday’s list, the European Union also targeted NIOC subsidiaries, as well as the National Iranian Gas Company and National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution. Several banks were also listed.
Neither the United States nor Europe import Iranian oil, and both are trying to curb Iran’s sales elsewhere.
On Monday, the European Union also banned imports of natural gas and imposed broad measures against EU companies cooperating with Iran’s ship-building industry.