European governments have agreed in principle to ban imports of Iranian oil, EU diplomats said Wednesday, dealing a potentially heavy blow to Tehran that crowns new Western economic sanctions imposing real pain just months before an Iranian election.
The prospective embargo from the European Union, along with tough U.S. financial measures signed into law by President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve, form a concerted Western campaign to impose sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iran says its nuclear programme is strictly peaceful, but Western countries say a November U.N. report shows it has sought to build an atomic bomb. Talks between Tehran and major powers broke down a year ago.
Diplomats said EU envoys had held talks on Iran in the last days of December, and that any objections to an oil embargo had been dropped – notably from crisis-hit Greece which gets a third of its oil from Iran, relying on Tehran’s lenient financing. Spain and Italy are also big buyers.
“A lot of progress has been made,» one EU diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. «The principle of an oil embargo is agreed. It is not being debated any more.”
The embargo will force Tehran to find other buyers for oil.
EU countries buy about 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iran’s 2.6 billion bpd in exports, making the bloc collectively the second largest market for Iranian crude after China.