U.S. President Barack Obama issued a series of new sanctions against Iran and its nuclear program on Monday, targeting the country's petroleum industry, but avoiding a move against the country's central bank.
According to an executive order issued by the White House to the U.S. Congresses, Washington will be "expanding sanctions to target the supply of goods, services, technology, or support…to Iran for the development of its petroleum resources and maintenance or expansion of its petrochemical industry."
The document continued to specify sanctions against "eleven individuals and entities…for their role in Iran’s WMD program," as well as "identifying the Islamic Republic of Iran as a jurisdiction of 'primary money laundering concern' under section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Monday's briefing at the Department of State: "Let me be clear: Today's actions do not exhaust our opportunities to sanction Iran. We continue actively to consider a range of increasingly aggressive measures. We are committed to continuing our collaboration to develop additional sanctions that will have the effect we all want: putting strong pressure on Iran".
On the other hand, Clinton added "the administration's dual-track strategy is not only about pressure.... The United States is committed to engagement, but only - and I say only - if Iran is prepared to engage seriously and concretely, without preconditions. So far, we have seen little indication that Iran is serious about negotiations on its nuclear program. And until we do and until Iran's leaders live up to their international obligations, they will face increasing consequences".
But these measures fall short of the statements made by French President Nikolas Sarkozy earlier Monday, calling world powers to target Iran's central bank by freezing overseas assets, the American measures do not specifically deal with The Central Bank of Iran.
In his letter, coming after the U.K. and Canada had already announced new measures against Iran's nuclear program, the French president said that as "Iran steps up its nuclear program, refuses negotiation and condemns its people to isolation, France advocates new sanctions on an unprecedented scale to convince Iran that it must negotiate."
"France therefore proposes to the European Union and its member states, the United States, Japan and Canada and other willing countries to take the decision to immediately freeze the assets of the Iranian central bank [and] stop purchases of Iranian oil," the statement added.
Sarkozy's letter represents the clearest, most determined call to rally Western countries in an effort to penalize Iran for its nuclear ambitions, in an attempt perhaps to half further development of nuclear armament.
The French president's statement could also be seen as a last-ditch attempt by the West to prevent a military strike of Iran's military facilities, when and if it turns out that sanctions have run their course.
Most Iran specialists claim that it is only through an injury of the Islamic Republic's oil exportation enterprises, and through the freezing of foreign assists, that Tehran may be swayed to reconsider its nuclear ambitions.
The new EU measures will likely target industries such as shipping and will be formalized at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Dec. 1, but discussions on possible further steps could take place in the coming days, diplomats said.
Earlier Monday, the U.K. and Canada stated they would join Washington in escalating financial measures against the Islamic Republic.
The steps come in response to a Nov. 8 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that presented intelligence suggesting Iran had worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be secretly carrying out related research. Iran says its nuclear work is entirely peaceful.
The range of unilateral steps planned by Western powers reflects the difficulty of persuading Russia and China not to veto further measures at the UN Security Council, where they have supported four previous sanctions resolutions.
While Britain ordered its financial institutions to stop all business with Iran, a source familiar with the sanctions said the steps would not directly target trade in Iranian oil.
"We believe that the Iranian regime's actions pose a significant threat to the UK's national security and the international community. Today's announcement is a further step to preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons," said British finance minister George Osborne.
EU governments could reach a preliminary deal on Tuesday to add about 190 Iranian people and entities to a list of those targeted by asset freezes and travel bans, diplomats said.
Canada will immediately ban the export to Iran of all goods used in the petrochemical, oil and gas industry as part of an international sanctions package, the government said on Monday.
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