December 01, 2011

EU imposes sanctions on Iran over embassy storming

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 1, 2011
British Foreign Minister William Hague at the EU meeting in Brussels
British Foreign Minister William Hague at the EU meeting in Brussels

(CNN) -- European Union foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on Iranian firms and individuals Thursday in response to protesters storming the British Embassy in Tehran, a spokeswoman for the EU foreign policy chief said.
The sanctions apply to 143 entities and 37 individuals, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told CNN.
The ministers also agreed to continue working on extra punitive measures that could target Iran's financial, transport and energy sectors, Kocijancic said.
Hundreds of Iranian student protesters stormed the embassy and another British diplomatic compound Tuesday, prompting wide outrage in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The buildings should have been guarded by Iranian security officers, the British government said.
Britain closed its embassy in Iran and evacuated all its diplomatic staff from that country Wednesday in response to the incident.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also ordered the Iranian embassy in London to close immediately, with its staff given 48 hours to leave.
Speaking at the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, Ashton said there was a lot of solidarity with Britain among the foreign ministers gathered there.
"We were all extremely shocked to see what happened to the embassy in Tehran," she said in a statement.
"This is completely inappropriate; it is for the authorities in Tehran to protect the diplomats who serve their country in Tehran. That message has gone out very clearly."

The protesters in Tehran were demanding that the British ambassador be sent home immediately.
The rally began quietly outside the embassy, but some participants stormed the building, breaking down the door. Among other things, they replaced the British flag with an Iranian one.
The demonstration followed a decision by the Iranian Parliament Sunday to expel the British ambassador and reduce diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom in retaliation for its new sanctions against Iran.
A statement from the Council said it was outraged by the embassy attack, and condemned it as a violation of the Vienna Convention.
"It also deplores the decision to expel the British Ambassador from Tehran," the statement said. "The Council considers these actions against the UK as actions against the European Union as a whole. The EU is taking appropriate measures in response."
Iran's Foreign Ministry expressed its regret for the student protest and said action would be taken through legal channels.

Britain cut all financial ties with Iran last week over concerns about its nuclear program, the first time it has cut an entire country's banking sector off from British finance.
The move came after an International Atomic Energy Agency report highlighted new concerns about "the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program," the British Treasury statement said last week.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and has called the U.N. watchdog's report "unbalanced" and "politically motivated."
The EU Foreign Affairs Council backed the IAEA's conclusions Thursday, and reiterated its "serious and deepening concerns over the nature of Iran's nuclear programme, and in particular over the findings on Iranian activities relating to the development of military nuclear technology."
CNN's Laura Perez Maestro contributed to this report.

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