EU resolves to ban Iran oil imports

The European Union today followed the US line by formally adopting an oil embargo against Iran and agreeing to freeze the assets of the country's central bank as part of sanctions against the country's nuclear ambitions.

The measures adopted in Brussels by the EU's 27 foreign ministers include an immediate embargo on new contracts for crude oil and petroleum products, while existing contracts will be allowed to run only until July.

Iran says its nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes. It denies that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and says talks and not sanctions are the way to resolve the dispute.

Under the new resolution, EU governments would stop signing new contracts with Iran when the ban comes into place - which could be as soon as this week, suggests Reuters news agency.

British foreign secretary William Hague called the embargo part of "an unprecedented set of sanctions."

"I think this shows the resolve of the European Union on this issue," he said.