WASHINGTON // Iran yesterday dismissed a new set of US sanctions as "propaganda", as reports suggested the EU was also keen to increase pressure on the country over its contested nuclear programme.
Ramin Mehmanparast, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said the US measures, coordinated with Britain and Canada and announced on Monday in Washington, would have no effect.
"The action some western countries, particularly the US and Britain, is pursuing will be without result," Mr Mehmanparast said yesterday in Tehran, denouncing the sanctions as "propaganda and psychological warfare".
The sanctions follow a report from the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), suggesting Iran was working toward a nuclear weapons capability, and the unravelling in October of an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US.
The sanctions build on previous measures to target foreign companies involved in providing technology, equipment and services to Iran's oil and gas sector and petrochemical industry.
Eleven Iranian companies were also designated as procurers of nuclear technology.
The US declared Iran's banking system a centre for money laundering, complicating any business arrangements with Tehran for foreign financial institutions.
The new measures are "critical", according to senior administration officials, because they "significantly expand" sanctions on Iran's energy sector and therefore Iran's main source of foreign revenue.
Barack Obama, the US president, said the additional sanctions were implemented because Tehran had "failed to abide" by its international obligations regarding its nuclear programme. Mr Obama claimed he had offered Iran the chance of new relations with the US but that Tehran had chosen to "defy its responsibilities".
"As long as Iran continues down this dangerous path, the US will continue to find ways, both in concert with our partners and through our own actions, to isolate and increase the pressure upon the Iranian regime."
European countries may soon follow suit with their own set of new sanctions.
Diplomats told the French news agency, Agence French-Presse, that the EU planned to slap sanctions on 200 Iranian individuals and companies, in measures to be announced in Brussels on December 1.
EU members, according to one diplomat, were also debating whether to include new industries or sectors to the list of sanctions.
It was not clear how great an effect the measures would have.
The UN has approved four rounds of sanctions against Iran in the past five years but China and Russia, both veto-wielding powers, have resisted further action.
Those powers, along with India and others, have wider trade relations with Iran than any western countries. Moreover, fears over a spike in global oil prices have blunted the willingness of US officials to push sanctions too far.
Administration officials said on Monday they were launching a diplomatic campaign to convince countries that rely on energy supplied by Iran to seek alternatives.
Tehran remains undaunted. "The sanctions reflect the enmity toward our nation and are to be condemned," said Mr Mehmanparast yesterday. The measures would be ineffective, he added, as Iran's trade and economic ties with the US and Britain were small.