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European Union intensifies sanctions on Iran

BRUSSELS — The European Union toughened sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program Monday, banning trade in industries like finance, metals and natural gas, and making other business transactions far more cumbersome.

The measures were the latest in a long series of sanctions from Europe, the United States and the U.N. Security Council, and were evidence of the worsening damage to Iran’s economy.

In a joint statement, EU foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, expressed “serious and deepening concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.” They added that in continuing to enrich uranium, despite Western concerns that it is aiming for a bomb, Iran was “acting in flagrant violation of its international obligations.”

Ahead of the meeting, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said: “We want to see a negotiated agreement. But we will continue to keep up the pressure.”

Ashton represents six major powers, including the United States, in nuclear talks with the Iranians. There have been five rounds of discussions since late 2010, the last of which ended in frustration in June. Ashton said the major powers would keep in contact with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s negotiator, to assess when to convene another meeting.

The new European sanctions were necessary as a result of a “continued failure to satisfy the world that the program was for peaceful purposes,” said William Hague, the British foreign secretary.

—James Kanter and Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times

Economists call delaying aid for Spain risky for Europe

MADRID — It has become Spain’s version of Godot: waiting for Rajoy.

For various reasons, Mariano Rajoy, the country’s prime minister, has deferred seeking help from a financial assistance program that Europe has tailored to Spain’s needs. Many economists, analysts and business executives here are increasingly worried about the costs of further delay.

They warn that waiting to seek aid, and the uncertainty the delay engenders, threaten to push the economy deeper into recession. And that, they say, could increase the ultimate cost to Spain and Europe if the aid eventually needs to be granted under crisis conditions.

As long as Spain’s borrowing costs remain below six percent, as they have since the European Central Bank said it would buy the country’s bonds if asked, the Rajoy government might seem to have no reason to rush. But the downgrade of Spanish debt to near junk status last week by Standard & Poor’s underscored the fragility of the country’s finances.

—Landon Thomas Jr., The New York Times