24 May 2011
The European Union has expanded sanctions against Iran over growing concerns about Tehran's nuclear program, which Western nations fear serves for the development of atomic weapons. At a meeting in Brussels EU foreign ministers agreed to impose asset freezes and travel bans on several people and more than 100 companies suspected of involvement in the proliferation of weapons or military technology. Diplomats say one of the targeted firms is the Germany-based European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH).
The measures add to a range of EU sanctions already imposed on Iran in response to its rejection of international demands to suspend uranium enrichment, which international observers fear is part of a secret nuclear weapons program. EU officials have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in resuming a dialogue with Iran to resolve the nuclear dispute. The last round of talks between Iran and six world powers in January ended in failure. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed disappointment with Iranian offers for more talks, accusing Tehran of merely restating previous positions.
The United States welcomed the European decision to expand sanctions against Iranian companies and officials. The White House said the international community would respond to Iranian refusals to fulfill its international obligations by fully implementing UN Security Council resolutions and "aggressively" countering Iranian weapons proliferation activities. The Obama administration also said that it remained "fully committed" to the "peaceful resolution" of international concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program.
Travel ban on Syrian president
The European Union also slapped sanctions on Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad and nine other members of his regime, banning them from traveling to the EU and freezing any assets they hold within the union. The new penalties, which follow US sanctions against Assad, follow his government’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, which has so far claimed the lives of an estimated 1,000 people.
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