LUXEMBOURG - The European Union, about to ratchet up sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear drive, will keep up the pressure on Tehran failing a breakthrough in talks, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday.“Today we expect to agree fresh sanctions on Iran as a result of its nuclear programme and its continued failure to satisfy the world that that programme is for peaceful purposes,” Hague said on stepping into a meeting of the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers.“This is a sign of our resolve in the European Union,” he added, “that we will step up the pressure, we will intensify the pressure and we will continue to do so over the coming months unless negotiations succeed.”The new package of sanctions is expected to target EU dealings with Iran’s banks, as well as trade and gas imports, diplomatic sources said.EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was “very very important that Iran is sent a very strong signal from this European Union foreign affairs council that we want to see a negotiated agreement.”Previous sanctions, in particular a biting oil embargo that came into effect in July, are “quite clearly having an effect,” she told reporters.According to a diplomat who asked not to be named, ministers will agree for the first time Monday to hit Iran’s telecoms sector, targetting companies believed to provide financial support for Tehran.In a speech to the United Jewish Israel Appeal in London, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Israel not to launch a military attack on Iran over its contested nuclear programme and said sanctions should be given time to work.In an address at the northeastern city of Shirvan, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran’s enemies seek to disrupt the calmness in the country through economic confrontation.“I am asking officials in the judiciary, executive and legislative branches to be watchful so the ill-wishers (Western powers) are not able to disrupt the calmness in the country with their plots,” Khamenei said his address, which was broadcast live on television.“With God’s grace, as was the case in other issues which the enemies were not able to do anything, they can do no damn thing in their economic confrontation with our people,” he added. Khamenei urged Iranian officials to focus on economic issues that the “enemies” want to use to weaken Iran.Last Wednesday, the supreme leader railed against the sanctions, labelling them as “barbaric.”“This is a war against a nation... But the Iranian nation will defeat them,” he saidA 15-member European Parliament delegation will visit Iran for a five-day trip which starts on October 27, the Majlis speaker’s adviser on international issues announced on Monday.Hossein Sheikholeslam told the Mehr News Agency that the parliamentary team comprises MEPs from 6 or 7 European countries. The delegation will probably be headed by a MEP from Cyprus who currently holds the EU presidency, Sheikholeslam added. He said MP Kazem Jalali, the chairman of the Majlis Research Centre, will head the Iranian negotiating team with the visiting MEPs. He rejected reports that the meeting with members of the European Parliament had been cancelled.
All dealings between European and Iranian banks will meanwhile be banned above a certain “relatively low” threshold, although exceptions will be allowed in some medical and humanitarian cases, the diplomat said.Short-term export credit guarantees will be also barred, joining the medium- and long-term guarantees already banned.Imports of Iranian gas will be prohibited, a symbolic gesture since the amounts involved are small, but the move sits alongside July’s much more significant ban on imports of Iranian oil.Sales of graphite or aluminium which could be used in Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes are also to be closed down, with other measures targetting its shipping industry.An extra 30 companies will be put on a list of firms hit by an EU assets freeze.