Washington, Nov. 22 - Western countries are making good on promises to tighten sanctions on Iran, as U.S. officials announced Monday they are targeting the Islamic republic’s petrochemical industry and the Central Bank of Iran. Canada and the United Kingdom also approved sanctions on Iran’s financial sector and the European Union is expected to discuss its own set of heightened measures Dec. 1.
The United States also imposed sanctions on companies that assist Iran in its nuclear development, and Canada stepped up sanctions with measures that include forbidding the export of materials Iran uses for oil refinement.
The sanctions follow the Nov. 8 International Atomic Energy Agency report that detailed Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons and a missile delivery system for warheads. Iranian leaders had previously claimed their nuclear program was for peaceful purposes only.
“These measures represent a significant ratcheting up of pressure on Iran, its sources of income and its illegal activities,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. “Recent days have brought new evidence that Iran's leaders have continued to defy their international obligations,” she added.
Also on Monday, France called for “unprecedented” sanctions against Iran. President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement 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."
U.S. officials also designated – but didn’t sanction - Iran’s financial sector as a vehicle for money laundering. The move opens the door to requirements that U.S. banks do more to make sure they aren’t doing business with Iranian banks directly or indirectly.
London also said it would no longer do business with Iran’s financial industry because of its part in paying for nuclear and ballistic missile development.
“We have consistently made clear that until Iran engages meaningfully, it will find itself under increasing pressure,” said UK Foreign Secretary William Hague. “The swift and decisive action today, coordinated with key international partners, is a strong signal of determination to intensify this pressure.”
Beginning in 2006, the United Nations approved four sets of sanctions on Iran, which have slowed but not stopped the country’s leaders from carrying out its nuclear program.
Iran has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, and on numerous occasions Iranian officials have condemned and threatened Western nations, promised to share their nuclear know-how with like-minded countries, and denied the Holocaust.