US imposes new sanctions on Iranian banks

The United States has imposed new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear weapons programme,targeting its financial industry and demanding that the European Union follows suit.

The new measures announced Thursday afternoon by the Department of Treasury targeted 18 major Iranian banks, not previously subject to U.S. restrictions.

Announcing the sanctions, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the UK, France and Germany would be required not just to comply with the sanctions, but to enforce them.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, said: "Our sanctions programmes will continue until Iran stops its support of terrorist activities and ends its nuclear programmes.

"Today’s actions will continue to allow for humanitarian transactions to support the Iranian people.”

Trump's hard-line stance on Iran has been one of the hallmarks of his presidency, with tensions between Washington and Tehran growing since he unilaterally pulled the US out of a nuclear deal with Iran in 2018

Since the US' decision to leave the Iran nuclear deal, the reimposed sanctions have had severe consequences for Iran whose currency fell to a new low against the dollar last month.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the United States of undertaking a “crime against a humanity” and warned there would be consequences.

Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the US of inflicting $150 billion worth of damage on Iran due to sanctions since 2018.

The government has consistently denied it is developing nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The US claimed the president’s executive order came with the authority of the UN since the US, an original signatory to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, had declared Iran in breach of the deal.

The UN is due to lift its embargo on sales of conventional weapons to Iran in the middle of October, but Washington claimed its actions ensure the embargo cannot be lifted.