EU adopts Iran oil embargo

(JTA) — The European Union adopted an oil embargo against Iran as part of its sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Under the embargo, which was approved Monday by the EU’s 27 foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels, the countries will impose an immediate embargo on new contracts with Iran for crude oil and petroleum products. Also, existing contracts must end by July 1.

"The pressure of sanctions is designed to try and make sure that Iran takes seriously our request to come to the table," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

The sanctions also include a freeze on the assets of Iran’s central bank.

In response, Iranian lawmakers again threatened to close off the Strait of Hormuz, which would cut off much of the West’s oil supply.

"In case of threat, the closure of the Strait of Hormuz is one of Iran’s rights," senior Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh said. "So far, Iran has not used this privilege."

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes; Western nations are concerned that Iran is preparing to build nuclear weapons.

The EU sanctions come on the heels of new financial sanctions on Iran by the United States targeting third parties that deal with Iran’s financial and energy sectors. For years the United States has banned dealings by its own citizens with those sectors.

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