June 24th, 2008 09:09 EST
Refusal to freeze nuclear program leads to frozen Iranian assets
European Union members have approved new sanctions against Iran in response to Tehran`s refusal to freeze its nuclear program.
New EU sanctions on Iran include an asset freeze on the country`s biggest bank, Bank Melli. They also include visa bans that will reportedly target senior members affiliated with Iran`s nuclear program.
Iran says its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes of generating power, but western nations fear Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The United States and the 27-member European Union agreed earlier this month they were ready to take new steps, adding to existing sanctions.
But the Reuters news agency reports the European Union is still offering economic incentives to Iran in return for an end to its uranium-enrichment program.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented the incentives during unsuccessful talks with Iranian officials earlier this month in Tehran.
Last week, Solana told reporters the incentives are an updated version of a package offered in 2006, which Iran rejected.
"I hope to have a response from Tehran soon on the issues we have spoken [about], which have been very important," Solana said. "Our presence here signifies that we care about good relations with Iran, but for that, the question of nuclear [activities] has to be clearly resolved."
Iran has said it is encouraged by the latest EU incentives offer, but has dismissed any call for it to suspend its nuclear program.
The United States also favors a diplomatic approach to ending the standoff with Tehran. Meanwhile, Iran`s acting economy minister said during the weekend that the existing sanctions were not having a major impact on his country`s economy.