The European Union reached a preliminary deal Friday on a broad package of new sanctions on Iran, EU diplomats said.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the measures, which focus on the energy, commerce, financial and transport sectors, were agreed after several weeks of talks among member states. They are set to be signed off Monday when foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg.
The new round of sanctions is among the toughest yet adopted against Iran and comes as diplomatic efforts to negotiate a solution to Iran's nuclear program have stalled, said the report.
EU diplomats were quoted by The Wall Street Journal as having said that, allied with an oil embargo that came into full effect July 1, the new measures could significantly ratchet up the economic and financial squeeze on the Iranian regime, which has already seen the currency fall sharply and energy revenue fall.
"We see these sanctions as a potentially very important step. These measures are the second most significant we've taken on Iran, after we banned the import of Iranian oil," said one EU diplomat. "The issue is urgent and we need to tackle Iran's ability to pursue the nuclear program."
The new measures are broad-based and include a ban on gas imports from Iran and exports to Iran of graphite, steel, aluminum and other metals, diplomats said.
European firms will be banned from contracting any ships to transport Iranian oil—even if they are from outside the bloc. There will be a ban on marine equipment sales and European firms will be prohibited from constructing oil tankers for Iran.
The most effective measures, reported The Wall Street Journal, may be in the financial sector. Even for trade that is still allowed, there will be tight thresholds on transactions with Iranian banks that can go ahead without authorization.
The level of the threshold will depend on the sector, with humanitarian trade in food and medicines having a ceiling of €100,000. But for many other items, any transaction over €10,000 with an Iranian bank will need pre-approval, diplomats said.
The EU will also add new financial and energy companies to its sanctions list.
Previous reports indicated that during the meeting on October 15 Britain, France and Germany will press for toughening up sanctions on Iran's energy sector and financial institutions.
Three rounds of talks between Iran and the international community made little progress between April and June. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has since met and spoken to Iranian nuclear head Saeed Jalili, but there is still no date for fresh talks.
Western diplomats have said Iran has made no serious effort so far to engage with an offer made by the international community to gradually drop sanctions in return for Iran stopping the enrichment of uranium at 20% purity levels and removing its stockpile of already enriched uranium from the country.
Meanwhile on Friday, Iran's minister of economic affairs and finance warned that the West would “pay a price” for sanctions on his country.
The minister, Shamseddin Hosseini, added that Iran's foreign exchange reserves are in a "good position".
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)