EU to Pursue Iran Sanctions Despite Threat of Strait Closure

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The European Union is pressing ahead with plans to impose new sanctions on Iran, an EU spokesman said Wednesday after Tehran threatened to close a vital oil transit channel in response to Western measures.

"The European Union is considering another set of sanctions against Iran and we continue to do that," Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign affairs Chief Catherine Ashton, told Agence France Presse.

"We expect the decision will be taken in time for the foreign affairs council on January 30," he said, referring to the next meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned on Tuesday that "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz" if the West broadened sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

The United States and the 27-nation EU are considering new sanctions aimed at Iran's oil and financial sectors. But EU governments have been divided over whether to impose an embargo on Iranian crude.

Oil from Iran in 2010 amounted to 5.8 percent of total EU imports, making Tehran the bloc's fifth-largest supplier after Russia, Norway, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

Spain represents 14.6 percent of Iranian oil imports to Europe, Greece 14.0 and Italy 13.1 percent.

More than a third of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, linking the Gulf -- and its petroleum-exporting states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- to the Indian Ocean.

The United States maintains a navy presence in the Gulf in large part to ensure that passage for oil remains free.

NATO officials declined to comment on the Iranian threat.

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