Japan approves new financial sanctions against Iran

Japan’s cabinet on Friday approved new sanctions against Iran, including an assets freeze on figures linked to its nuclear programme and tighter restrictions on financial transactions.

Japan also said it would suspend any new oil and gas investments in Iran, but there are no plans to restrict imports of crude oil from Iran, a major energy supplier to resource-poor Japan.

The steps come a month after Tokyo approved punitive measures in line with a June UN Security Council resolution which slapped a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment work.

Japan’s new sanctions include a freeze on the assets of 88 groups and 24 individuals linked to the country’s nuclear programme, which many nations fear masks a drive for atomic weapons, a government document said.

Japan will also bar the individuals on the expanded blacklist from entering the country, it said.

The new package of sanctions also bars Japanese financial institutions from dealing in bonds issued by Iran’s central bank and equities linked to any activities to develop nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction.

The United States, European Union, Canada and Australia have also announced additional sanctions, which have been opposed by Russia and China, now Iran’s closest trading partner, with major energy interests in the country.

Washington last month urged Tokyo to help raise international pressure on Tehran, despite Japan’s usually friendly ties with the country.

“Our nation has traditionally had a close relationship with Iran,” top government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku told reporters Friday.

“From this unique position, we will make persistent calls on the country for the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of this problem.”

In early August US State Department special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control Robert Einhorn said in Tokyo: “Japan imports a lot of oil from Iran, but the steps we are asking Japan to take would not interfere in any way with Japan’s energy security, its imports of oil from Iran.”

Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is peaceful.