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EU Ministers to Approve Tighter Sanctions on Iran


European Union foreign ministers are poised to adopt tighter sanctions against Iran, including measures to ban investment in the oil and gas industry.

Excerpts of a draft declaration made public Tuesday show that EU foreign ministers are expected to approve the decision to adopt further sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program and call on Tehran to resume talks.

The new EU steps are also expected to target trade, banking and insurance, as well as transportation including shipping and air cargo.

News organizations say a draft text of the declaration urges Iran to "seize" the "opportunity to allay the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program."

The draft also calls on Tehran to agree on a date for talks with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and the six countries involved in nuclear negotiations. The six countries are the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany.

The EU declaration must still be endorsed by EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels this Thursday, but major changes are unlikely.

In Tehran Tuesday, Iran's parliament passed a bill authorizing retaliatory measures against countries that inspect cargo on Iranian ships and aircraft.

New U.N. sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program calls on countries to inspect all cargo to and from Iran if there are reasonable grounds to believe items on board could contribute to Iran's atomic program.

The bill passed in Tehran allows Iran's government to carry out its own cargo inspections against countries cooperating with the U.N. request.

Last month, EU leaders agreed to go ahead with the tougher measures as part of a two-track strategy to deal with Iran's nuclear program.

Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons under the cover of its civilian nuclear program -- a charge repeatedly denied by Iranian authorities.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, Reuters.

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