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EU Begins Enforcement of New Iran Sanctions

The European Union imposed new trade sanctions against Iran Friday, as Tehran continues to hold out against international demands that it freeze its nuclear enrichment program. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris.

In a statement published Friday by the bloc's current president France, the European Union announced it had begun to apply new measures against Tehran, including closely scrutinizing financial groups doing business with Iranian banks, and holding back on loans for companies trading with Iran. The EU's 27 members will also inspect airplanes and ships traveling to and from Iran to insure they are not carrying illegal materials.

The sanctions make good an agreement by EU ambassadors last month and go further than existing United Nations trade sanctions. But they do not impose sanctions on Iran's oil and gas trade.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for the peaceful purpose of providing energy and not an effort to build nuclear weapons, as western nations fear. Earlier this week, France and the United States criticized as insufficient Iran's response to a package of incentives offered in exchange for Iran's freezing its nuclear program.

In recent remarks to reporters in Brussels, the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana laid out the stakes for each side.

"For us, to refrain from any further sanctions in the [UN] Security Council. For them, to refrain from any other nuclear activity...That is what we are asking - which we call freeze for freeze," said Solana. "It's something very sensible to engage in the process of negotiation. It's as simple as that."

Iran has yet to give a clear response to the incentives package, saying it wants more details. In the meantime, it may face the threat of yet more sanctions at the United Nations Security Council.