Brussels: The European Union's "growing fear" regarding Iran's nuclear programme on Thursday prompted the 27-member bloc to slap fresh sanctions on 180 Iranian companies.

"The council agreed to broaden existing sanctions by examining, in close coordination with international partners, additional measures including measures aimed at severely affecting the Iranian financial system, in the transport sector, in the energy sector," said a statement of EU Foreign Ministers after their meeting in Brussels.

Britain on Wednesday expelled Iranian diplomats a day after its embassy in Tehran was stormed by protesters demonstrating against sanctions imposed by London following a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that cast doubt on Iranian claims that it was not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

Eleven people arrested on Wednesday for storming the embassy were released on Thursday.
Details of the EU sanctions have not yet been released. The EU said the measures should be implemented by January.

(Agencies)