British Foreign Secretary William Hague, left, speaks to Dutch counterpart… (Thierry Roge / Reuters )
Reporting from London — The European Union slapped new sanctions on Iranian individuals, companies and organizations Thursday in response to a report alleging that Tehran had pressed ahead with ambitions to build a nuclear weapon.
European governments also kept up their condemnation of the ransacking of the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday by an angry mob of protesters. Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands have temporarily recalled their ambassadors from Tehran in solidarity with Britain, which shut down its embassy Wednesday and gave Iranian diplomats in London 48 hours to leave the country.
Meeting in Brussels, EU foreign ministers approved the addition of 180 Iranian entities to the list of those whose assets in Europe have been frozen and who have been banned from travel in any of the EU's 27 member states.
The move followed a sharply critical report last month by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency citing evidence that Tehran had pushed ahead with tests aimed at developing an atomic bomb.
But the ministers stopped short of imposing an embargo on Iranian oil, a more drastic step that some European countries have urged. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe was quoted as saying that Greece, which relies heavily on Iranian oil imports, objected to the idea.
"We have to take that into account," Juppe said, according to the Associated Press. "We have to see with our partners that the cuts can be compensated by the increase of production in other countries."
He said such an arrangement remained "very possible."
Despite the lack of agreement on an oil embargo, British officials hailed the expanded list of those under financial restriction and said the sanctions against Iran had begun to bite.
Among the new names added to the list are individuals or groups associated with Iran's nuclear program, its state-owned shipping enterprise and the Revolutionary Guard, the elite military body that Britain alleges sponsored the attack on its Tehran embassy. Protesters stormed the embassy, burned the British flag and chanted "Death to Britain!" an assault that has left relations between London and Tehran at their lowest ebb in years.
"The EU made very clear that it will not bow to Iran's intimidation and bullying tactics. We will not back down," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
He said that further sanctions against Iran in the finance and energy sectors were under discussion, but that Europe remained open to a diplomatic settlement on the nuclear issue.
Tehran denies that it is trying to build an atomic weapon.
The EU foreign ministers also increased sanctions on Syria to protest the ongoing crackdown by the Damascus regime on pro-democracy protesters. More than 4,000 people have been killed, according to United Nations estimates.
The EU added 23 more individuals and companies to the list of those under sanction in Syria. The ministers warned that the country risked heading down a "very dangerous path" of sectarian conflict and violence.