New EU oil embargo targets Iran's nuclear drive

The European Union imposed an embargo this week on Iran's oil exports as part of a package of new sanctions aimed at curtailing funds for Tehran's alleged effort to acquire nuclear weapons and pressuring it to return to talks.

Britain’s Foreign Sec. William Hague said the new sanctions show how serious EU member states are about preventing nuclear proliferation and pressing Iran to return to the negotiating table.

Hague said Iran continues to defy UN resolutions and enriches uranium to 20% for which there is no civilian explanation. He said it is legitimate for the EU to increase the pressure on Iran to enter into negotiations.

The ministers agreed on an immediate ban on oil imports and a gradual phase-out of existing contracts between now and July 1. They also froze the assets of the country's central bank while ensuring that legitimate trade can continue under strict conditions.

The EU decision effectively outlaws petrochemical imports and investments and bans the sale of gold, diamonds, and other precious metals.

According to OGJ figures, Iran holds 151 billion bbl of reserves and produces 3.6 million b/d of oil. US Energy Information Administration data show that Iran exports 2.4 million b/d of oil.

The EU is Iran's second largest oil customer after China, importing 600,000 b/d in the first 10 months of 2011. Iran provided 34.2% of Greece’s total oil imports, 14.9% of Spain's, and 12.4% of Italy's in the first 9 months of 2011.

The ministers said they would review the potential impact on economically troubled EU nations heavily dependent on Iranian oil, as well as on the global oil market, by May 1.

Last week, the UN's International Atomic Agency said that a high-level visit to Iran would take place from Jan. 29-31 for talks on Tehran's nuclear activities.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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