European Union foreign ministers, who are responsible for agreeing a bloc-wide position ahead of an EU summit on Thursday, signed off on a statement on Monday that goes substantially beyond the fourth round of UN sanctions.
Iran has repeatedly shrugged off the impact of international sanctions, but analysts say the new measures could be more painful for the major oil producer because they target Iran’s energy sector.
“The carrot and stick policy of the EU is wrong and illogical because such measures would not resolve the issue [Iran’s nuclear row with the West],” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly news conference.
The EU sanctions will target Iran’s “key sectors of the gas and oil industry,” trade, including dual-use items, banking and insurance and Iran’s transport sector, including shipping and air cargo. The US Congress is also drawing up its own set of additional measures against Iran.
Iran, the world’s fifth largest crude oil exporter, has so far refused to suspend its sensitive nuclear work, as demanded by the UN Security Council, and said the new resolution will not stop its uranium enrichment work.
“Sanctions will not stop Iran’s nuclear work. Sanctions will make us more decisive to become self-sufficient,” Mehmanparast said.
Iran sits on 11 percent of the world’s oil reserves and has the second largest gas reserves. Sanctions imposed since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 have limited Iran’s ability to develop its energy sector, including its refining capability.
Iran says it needs around $25 billion a year in oil and gas industry investment and could turn into an importer of oil because of the lack of such funds. But UN and US sanctions are deterring energy companies, especially Western ones.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said the UN sanctions were like a “used handkerchief,” criticized on Tuesday the “unstable behavior” of foreign companies over investment in Iran’s energy sector.
”Big powers want to impose their will on other nations ... we do not need financial support of these countries,” Ahmadinejad said, according to state television.
The Islamic state has increasingly turned to Asian firms that are less susceptible to Western political pressure. But they often lack the technology to implement oil and gas projects.
The EU measures are likely to put strong financial pressure on Iran. Sweden, Greek Cyprus, Spain were believed to be opposed to any EU measures that go beyond the UN sanctions and Germany was said to have concerns about targeting Iran’s oil and gas sector, where it has large investments.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Wednesday she was ready to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator to discuss the country’s nuclear work, which Iran says is aimed at generating power not weapons.
Mehmanparast said Ashton “lost the negotiations opportunity for some months.” “Maybe she had some other priorities to deal with. Iran is reviewing Ashton’s request for talks with Iranian officials,” said Mehmanparast.