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EU Expands Iran Sanctions

France's FM Alain Juppe (2nd L) greets European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton (2nd R) during an EU foreign ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels, May 23, 2011

The European Union has expanded sanctions against Iran due to concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, which Western nations fear is a cover for developing nuclear weapons.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed Monday to impose asset freezes and travel bans on several people and more than 100 entities suspected of involvement in the proliferation of weapons or military technology. Diplomats say one of the targeted companies is a Germany-based bank, the European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH).

The measures add to a range of EU sanctions already imposed on Iran in response to its rejection of international demands to suspend uranium enrichment. Iran says its nuclear program is designed to generate electricity for peaceful purposes. International observers and Western governments are concerned that Iran is enriching uranium as part of a nuclear weapons program.

EU officials have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in resuming a dialogue with Iran to resolve the nuclear dispute. The last round of talks between Iran and six world powers in January ended in failure. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed disappointment with Iranian offers for more talks, accusing Tehran of merely restating old positions.

The United States welcomed the EU decision to widen sanctions against Iranian companies and officials. The White House says the international community will respond to Iranian refusals to fulfill international obligations by "fully" implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions and "aggressively" countering Iranian weapons proliferation activities.

The Obama administration also says it remains "fully committed" to the "peaceful resolution" of international concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program.

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

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