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EU passes unprecedentedly tough Iran sanctions

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The EU sanctions are also known to include restrictions on some 40 senior Iranian officials, bank freezes, bans on sale or transfer of technology (especially of natural gas liquefaction), and prior approval of cash transfers higher than $52,000, to outline a few.

After the meeting EU foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton said the measures "sent a powerful message" that Iran's "nuclear program is a cause of serious and growing concern to us ... because of the failure to comply with the UN Security Council resolution and the IAEA board resolutions" and because of a lack of interest in negotiations.

Why Europe is pressing hard now

In the past, Europe has been resistant to pressing Iran, which counts the EU as its top trade partner.

But EU foreign ministers went ahead with the sanctions Monday despite dire warnings in recent days by Tehran, including comments by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad such as, “Are you helpless, do you fear one Iranian atomic bomb?"

“The possibility of [nuclear] proliferation in close proximity to Europe means that European elites will even do things that cut against their commercial interests,” said Nick Whitney of the European Council of Foreign Relations in London.

But despite Iran's brash talk and refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, Ashton left room for reconciliation.

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