The European Union agreed in principle on Tuesday to sanction some 200 Iranian people, companies and organizations, Reuters repoted.
The EU decision is expected to be formally approved by foreign ministers on Dec. 1, at which point European companies will be banned from doing business with the listed firms and organizations, while individuals will be subject to asset freezes and visa bans.
The EU move follows a coordinated tightening of sanctions by the United States, Britain and Canada on Monday.
The United States named Iran as an area of “primary money laundering concern,” a step aimed at dissuading non-U.S. banks from dealing with it. The U.S. also blacklisted 11 entities suspected of aiding Iran’s nuclear programs and expanded sanctions to target companies that aid its oil and petrochemical industries.
Britain banned all its financial institutions from doing business with Iran, including the Iranian central bank, and Canada said it would ban the export of all goods used in Iran’s petrochemical, oil and gas industries.
Iran has dismissed the latest sanctions, Reuters noted, saying such steps would only intensify Iranian popular support for its nuclear program.
One European diplomat said, however, that Iran’s leadership “is very worried about a military strike. They have mishandled the issue and it is now very difficult for them to reach any kind of compromise.”
The diplomat added, “Also they are worried about a spread of the Arab Spring into Iran and cannot risk more economic pressure that can cause street protests.”
The latest tightening of sanctions on the Islamic Republic follows a November 8 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which presented intelligence suggesting Iran had worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be secretly carrying out related research.
The IAEA adopted a resolution last week which expresses “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions.”