European governments are considering a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program that could be implemented in October and substantially curtail trade with the Islamic Republic and hit its banking industry, diplomats say. The push comes at a time when tensions between Iran and Israel are rising, threatening to engulf the Middle East in a new war, and diplomatic efforts to resolve the decadelong dispute over Iran's nuclear work have foundered.
In response, governments in Europe and the U.S. are making a new push to persuade Tehran to scale back the enrichment of uranium, believed to be part of Tehran's program to build a nuclear bomb. Iran denies any military intentions and says it seeks to increase energy supplies with nuclear power.
Foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain asked their EU counterparts to agree on new measures by their next policy meeting on Oct. 15, in a joint letter sent in recent days.
"We must let Iran know that we have not exhausted our options," Laurent Fabius, Guido Westerwelle and William Hague wrote in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
The three ministers listed energy, finance, trade and transportation as the sectors to target.
European diplomats said several proposals for specific measures have circulated in Brussels in recent days, including moves to close loopholes in sanctions against the Iranian central bank agreed this year. No decisions have yet been taken.
More commercial banks could also be added to the lists of companies targeted by EU asset freezes, several diplomats said, without identifying any institutions. Sanctions imposed by Washington target roughly a dozen more banks than EU measures, which could be expanded to add these.
A number of shipping companies are also being considered as new sanction targets, diplomats said.