, TEHRAN, Jul 27 – Iran vowed on Tuesday to press ahead with its nuclear programme as it condemned tough new sanctions aimed at forcing it to resume talks with world powers about its controversial atomic drive.
The European Union slapped fresh sanctions on Iran\’s key energy sector on Monday in a bid to halt its sensitive uranium enrichment programme. Canada followed suit, and the United States said the punitive steps would bite.
"These sanctions will not help in resuming talks and will not affect Iran\’s determination to defend its legitimate right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast.
The punitive measures would "not help in advancing the talks," he said, as quoted by the official IRNA news agency on Tuesday.
The EU sanctions follow similar measures meted out by the United States by going beyond a fourth set of UN sanctions imposed on June 9 over Iran\’s refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.
They are aimed at reviving stalled talks between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
Among their measures are a ban on the sale of equipment, technology and services to Iran\’s energy sector, and steps to hit activities in refining, liquefied natural gas, exploration and production, EU diplomats said.
New investments in the energy sector were also banned.
Iran is the world\’s fourth largest producer of crude oil, but imports 40 percent of its fuel needs because it lacks enough refining capabilities to meet domestic demand.
The Iranian banking sector was also hit by restrictions, forcing any transactions of more than 40,000 euros (52,000 dollars) to be authorised by EU governments before they can go ahead.
Iran also has the world\’s second-largest reserves of natural gas after Russia, but the development of its giant gas fields has been delayed due to a lack of investment in a country faced with severe gas needs of its own and because of difficulties in procuring the required technology.
Several top global energy majors have already quit Iran, or have been considering an exit since the fresh set of UN sanctions.
The last high-level meeting between Iran and the six world powers was held in Geneva in October 2009 when the two sides agreed a nuclear fuel swap deal that has since stalled.
Western powers have demanded Iran suspend its uranium enrichment programme, fearing Tehran would use the material to build a nuclear bomb. Iran says its atomic programme is a peaceful drive to produce energy.
On Monday Iran responded to queries raised by the Vienna group of diplomatic powers — France, Russia and the United
States — over a nuclear fuel swap proposal by Brazil, Turkey and Tehran.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran\’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tehran was ready for "prompt talks without any preconditions" over the fuel swap deal.
Iran also said earlier this month that talks over Iran\’s overall nuclear programme could begin in September after EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton reached out to Iran\’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in a letter in June.