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U.K., France Increase Pressure on Iran as U.S. Plans Measures

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne today banned the nation’s financial institutions from doing business with Iranian counterparts, including the central bank, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for additional sanctions.

The increased pressure on Iran follows the United Nations atomic agency’s announcement Nov. 8 that it had information inspectors deemed “credible” showing that Iranian scientists worked on nuclear-weapon components until at least 2010. The U.S. is set to announce additional measures today.

“I have today taken action to impose further financial restrictions against Iran,” Osborne said in a statement released by his office in London. “We believe that the Iranian regime’s actions pose a significant threat to the U.K.’s national security and the international community. Today’s announcement is a further step to preventing the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Osborne said the action was taken in coordination with other countries. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will outline the steps the U.S. is taking to increase pressure on Iran at about 4:45 p.m. eastern time, the Treasury Department said in a statement in Washington.

Sarkozy called for fresh sanctions against Iran, including the freeze of its central bank’s assets, to force it to negotiate and stop developing nuclear weapons, according to an e-mailed statement from the president’s office.

Sarkozy Letter

In a letter sent today to leaders of the U.S., Germany, Japan, the U.K., Canada and the European Union, the French president said nations should stop purchasing Iranian oil. Iran’s nuclear program represents a “serious and urgent threat to peace,” Sarkozy said, according to the statement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board this month delivered its first rebuke of Iran in two years, expressing “deep and increasing concern” about atomic-bomb work alleged to have taken place. Iran has dismissed the charges, called the evidence fake and said it only wants to develop atomic power.

Canada will expand sanctions against Iran, Peter Van Loan, the government’s leader in the House of Commons said today. The sanctions will block “virtually all transactions” by Canadians with Iran, including those with its central bank, Van Loan told lawmakers in Parliament.

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