EU bans Iran oil imports as nuclear row escalates

 
City A.M. Reporter
EUROPEAN Union governments yesterday agreed to an immediate ban on all new contracts to import, buy or transport Iranian crude oil, a move to put pressure on Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme by shutting off its main source of foreign income.

But the governments agreed to phase in the embargo, giving countries with existing contracts with Iran until 1 July to end those deals to protect Europe’s economy amid the sovereign debt crisis.

At a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, EU governments also agreed to freeze the assets of Iran's central bank and to ban all trade in gold and other precious metals with the bank and other public bodies. Western powers hope the far stricter sanctions, which brings the EU more closely into line with US policy, will force Iran to scale back or halt its nuclear work, which Europe and the US believe is aimed at developing weapons.