The European Union today rolled out its embargo of Iranian oil, adopting the measure as what Britain's foreign secretary called "an unprecedented set of sanctions" designed to crack down on the country's nascent nuclear program. Existing contracts for crude oil and petroleum will be honored until July, but all new contracts are embargoed effective immediately, the AP reports. The EU is also poised to freeze Iran's central bank's assets. The sanctions should cut deep, notes Reuters: The EU is Iran's biggest oil customer after China.
"The pressure of sanctions is designed to try and make sure that Iran takes seriously our request to come to the table," says EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton, who has written to Iran's leading nuclear negotiator to call for talks to restore "international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program." Officials want the sanctions to affect Iran exclusively and not countries like Greece that depend on its cheap oil; to that end, they're examining the sanctions in a review due May 1. "This is not a question of security in the region," says Germany's foreign minister. "It is a question of security in the world." (Read more European Union stories.)