BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU foreign ministers piled pressure on Iran over its contested nuclear programme Thursday, slapping sanctions on an extra 180 firms and individuals and threatening to hit out at its vital oil sector. Expressing "deepening concerns" on the nature of the nuclear programme, the 27 European Union foreign ministers urged the bloc to "extend the scope" of current sanctions in order to strike at Tehran's financial heart. A statement said the ministers agreed to examine measures in particular affecting the financial system in the transport and energy sector. Outraged by Tuesday's storming of the British embassy in Tehran, the ministers also said they considered "these actions against the UK as actions against the European Union as a whole". British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on joining the talks that he would urge his counterparts to squeeze Iran for both its nuclear activities and mounting human rights violations. "I hope we will agree today additional measures that will be an intensification of the economic pressure on Iran, peaceful legitimate economic pressure particularly to increase the isolation of the Iranian financial sector," he saod. Though German counterpart Guido Westerwelle too favoured moves "to dry up Iran's financial sources", the crisis-hit EU is deeply split over slapping an oil embargo on Iran as well as over calls by some, including Britain, to agree an assets freeze on Iran's central bank. The new sanctions follow the publication last month of a new report on Iran's contested nuclear activity by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The punitive measures target both firms and individuals involved in the nuclear programme and those linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Much of the international community fears Iran's nuclear programme masks a drive for a weapons capability, though Tehran says it serves peaceful civilian energy and medical purposes only. The United States said Thursday it backs sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran, "appropriately timed," to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. The under secretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, told a Senate hearing that Washington supports "properly designed and well targeted sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran, appropriately timed" as part of policy against Iran.