US President George W. Bushand British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (AP)
LONDON (AP) – Britain will freeze assets of Iran’s largest bank in a further move to discourage the country from developing nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday.
Brown, speaking at a news conference with President Bush, said Britain will work to persuade Europe to follow suit.
The British leader said that assets of Iran’s Bank Melli would be frozen. Last year, the United States accused the bank of providing services to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“Action will start today in new phase of sanctions on oil and gas,” Brown said. “We will take any necessary action so that Iran is aware of the choice it needs to make.”
The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies that, saying its atomic program is aimed at using nuclear reactors to generate electricity.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of limited sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can both produce nuclear fuel and turn out the material needed for nuclear warheads.
The third round of U.N. sanctions passed in March introduced financial monitoring of Bank Melli and another bank with purported links to suspect Iranian nuclear activities, Bank Saderat.
Brown said his government wanted to do all it could to maintain a dialogue with Tehran.
“But we are also clear that if Iran continues to ignore (United Nations) resolutions, to ignore our offers of partnership, we have no choice but to intensify sanctions,” the prime minister said.
“I will repeat that we will take any necessary action so that Iran is aware of the choice it has to make – to start to play its part as a full and respected member of the international community, or face further isolation.”
Bush urged Tehran to accept a new package of incentives and said it should accept a Russian proposal to enrich uranium on Iran’s behalf.
“When the Iranians say we have a sovereign right to have one, the answer is ‘You bet you have a sovereign right, absolutely’,” Bush said, referring to a civilian nuclear program.
“But you don’t have the trust of those of us who have watched you carefully when it comes to enriching uranium, because you have declared that you want to destroy democracies in the neighborhood.”
Brown said he will press European colleagues at a summit in Brussels, Belgium later this week to agree a tougher package of European Union sanctions against Iran, including the freezing of Bank Melli’s assets.
The EU imposes its own set of measures against Iran, in addition to U.N.- backed sanctions, which include a total arms embargo and travel bans against a number of named individuals and organizations.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has previously called for the EU to target more companies – particularly in the banking sector – and other individuals who do not now face visa bans under current EU penalties.
Mon Jun 16, 11:43 AM ET