TEHRAN, Iran The European Union named Iran's largest commercial bank, the chief of the Revolutionary Guards and the head of the country's nuclear program on Tuesday as the targets of new sanctions imposed over Tehran's nuclear defiance.
Iran said Tuesday that it would not be hurt by the sanctions and hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for a special international court to be formed to punish what he called "tyrants" for their attempts to thwart the nuclear program.
A day after approving the sanctions, the EU released a list of 15 new names and 20 new companies that the EU says are linked to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. The names join a list of companies and figures under sanctions by the bloc since 2007.
Most notable among the newly sanctioned is Iran's Bank Melli, which allegedly provided or attempted to give financial backing to companies involved in procuring goods for Iran's nuclear and missile programs, the EU said. The EU action forces the shutdown of Bank Melli branches in Paris and Hamburg and a unit in London called Melli Bank PLC.
The individuals on the new list mainly belong to Iran's Defense Ministry and the elite Revolutionary Guards, which operate separately from the standing armed forces and are controlled by Iran's ruling clerics. Among them are Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, chief of the Guards, which is in charge of Iran's missile program.
Also sanctioned is Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, the governmental body which officially oversees Iran's nuclear activities.
The new measures mark a more assertive move by the Europeans over Iran's nuclear program, which the United States and some of its allies say is intended to produce weapons a claim Iran denies. But EU officials say they avoided harsher steps to avoid undermining a package of economic incentives aimed at persuading Iran to halt uranium enrichment.
But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Tuesday that the "carrot and stick policy" by the 27-nation EU bloc won't stop Iran's "pursuit to realize its nuclear rights."
Hosseini said the new sanctions would only damage European interests in Iran, calling the decision "narrow-minded" in a statement. "It will not help create a suitable atmosphere for a diplomatic solution" to the nuclear dispute, he said.
Iran says its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity and cites its right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue uranium enrichment, a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead. The United Nations has demanded Iran suspend enrichment and has imposed three rounds of similar financial sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals.
In his first comments since the EU sanctions were announced Monday, Ahmadinejad told a gathering of judges that "a court should be formed to try and punish all world criminals who invade the rights of the Iranian nation," according to the state IRNA news agency. He did not elaborate on where or how the world powers should be punished for sanctioning Tehran.
Ahmadinejad denounced the West for "issuing a verdict" against Iran without taking Iran's side into account.
Tehran officials have scorned the proposed EU incentives package, although it has also said that both sides could start talks on it since the proposal has "common" points with an Iranian proposal, which the West said fell far short of meeting international demands.
France's Foreign Ministry says tougher EU sanctions against Iran should not mark the end of international pressure over its nuclear activities.
Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani says new EU financial and travel restrictions on Iranian companies and individuals "are not an end unto themselves."
Andreani said Tuesday that "it is still time to maintain the pressure" on Iran to persuade it to suspend uranium enrichment.