EU agrees to target Iranian oil, gas, LNG sectors

LUXEMBOURG, June 14 (Reuters) - European Union leaders will push ahead with plans for tighter sanctions against Iran on Thursday, including measures to stem investment in the oil and gas sector and Tehran's refining capability.

European Union foreign ministers, who are responsible for agreeing an EU-wide position ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, signed off on a statement on Monday that goes substantially beyond the extra sanctions the United Nations agreed to impose on Iran last week, a draft shows.

The foreign ministers said the extra EU sanctions, which could be imposed from next month, should focus on trade, including dual-use items, banking and insurance and Iran's transport sector, including shipping and air cargo.

But the measures will also target "key sectors of the gas and oil industry with prohibition of new investment, technical assistance and transfers of technologies, equipment and services, in particular related to refining, liquefaction and Liquefied Natural Gas", documents obtained by Reuters show.

The measures, which go beyond what some diplomats had expected, are likely to put strong financial pressure on Iran, which is the world's fifth largest crude oil exporter.

Sweden, Cyprus, Spain were believed to be opposed to any EU measures that go beyond the sanctions agreed at the United Nations, and Germany was said to have concerns about targeting Iran's oil and gas sector, where it has large investments.

The European Union's move is designed to put further pressure on Iran to return to negotiations over its uranium enrichment programme, which the United States and other Western powers believe is designed to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran denies this and says its plans are peaceful.

The EU steps coincide with efforts by the U.S. Congress to draw up its own set of additional measures against Iran.

The EU-US measures are also designed to add bite to last week's U.N. sanctions package, parts of which were watered down by Russian and Chinese opposition. Their political impact was also undermined by Turkish and Brazilian votes against it. (Editing by Jon Boyle)


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