• The 27 nations of the European Union on Monday increased pressure on Iran over its nuclear program by agreeing to ban oil imports.
  • Under the deal, the members agreed not to sign new oil contracts with Iran and to end existing ones by July 1, said diplomats who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to comment.
  • The accord allows for a review of the economic impact of the sanctions that will assess the effect on countries, including Greece, which are heavily reliant on Iranian oil. Greece has sought more time to find new sources of oil to soften the impact on its debt-crippled economy.
  • Iran insists that its nuclear program is for civilian uses only and has threatened to retaliate against the intensifying pressure of sanctions by blocking the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic corridor for western energy supplies.
  • Diplomats say there is a risk that governments in Asia will step in to fill the gap left by European buyers and are expected to increase diplomatic efforts to persuade them not to do so.