European Union governments imposed sanctions on Tuesday against major Iranian state companies in the oil and gas industry, and strengthened restrictions on the central bank, cranking up pressure over Tehran’s nuclear program, as Tehran slammed the sanctions as “inhumane.”
Among the more than 30 companies and institutions listed in the EU’s Official Journal as targets for asset freezes in Europe was the National Iranian Oil Company, one of the world’s largest oil exporters, according to Reuters.
The United States imposed restrictions on NIOC last month as western governments seek to curb the Islamic Republic's ability to obtain funds through oil exports worldwide.
The new listings flesh out a decision by the EU’s 27 governments on Monday to introduce sweeping new sanctions against the Iranian industry, banking and energy sectors in the hope of drawing Tehran into serious negotiations about its atom project.
Iran denies its work has any military intentions and says it will not abandon it unless major international sanctions are lifted.
In Tuesday’s listing, the EU also targeted NIOC subsidiaries, the National Iranian Gas Company, National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company and the state firm overseeing the tanker industry. Several banks were also listed.
Meanwhile, Iran said the latest round of EU economic sanctions imposed over the country’s disputed nuclear program are “inhumane” as they target its general population.
“Unilateral European and U.S. sanctions against Iran are irrational, illegal and inhumane, and are against the Iranian nation,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, according to AFP.
Speaking on state television, Mehmanparast accused the West of using the nuclear issue as a pretext to apply pressure on Tehran for “insisting on its own independence.”
“These sanctions are adopted under the pretext of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities... but even if our nuclear issue is resolved, these countries will certainly use other excuses to put pressure on us.”
China criticized the EU on Tuesday for imposing new sanctions on Iran, calling again for talks to resolve the stand-off.
China is Iran’s largest crude oil customer and, along with Russia, has resisted putting sanctions on Tehran.
“We oppose the imposition of unilateral sanctions on Iran and believe that using sanctions to exert pressure cannot fundamentally resolve the Iran nuclear issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
“It can only make the situation more complex and intensify confrontation... We hope that all relevant parties can show flexibility, increase communication and push for a new round of talks as soon as possible.”
Western powers suspect Iran is using to the program to develop atomic weapons capability. Iran denies that and says its nuclear activities are purely peaceful.
The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, also this year engaged in three rounds of face-to-face negotiations with Iran on the issue, but they ended in an impasse, with contact downgraded to telephone calls between Iranian and EU officials.