LONDON (Reuters) -Britain said on Thursday it would create a new sanctions regime for Iran, giving the UK greater powers to target decision makers, including those involved in weapons proliferation and threats against British nationals.
Britain's current sanctions regime against Iran focuses on human rights, but the proposals would widen the scope of criteria that the government could cite in bringing new designations in future.
"The Iranian regime is oppressing its own people, exporting bloodshed in Ukraine and the Middle East, and threatening to kill and kidnap on UK soil," Britain's foreign minister, James Cleverly, said in a statement.
"Today the UK has sent a clear message to the regime - we will not tolerate this malign behaviour and we will hold you to account. Our new sanctions regime will help to ensure there can be no hiding place for those who seek to do us harm."
The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the charge d'affaires of the British embassy in Tehran over the "destructive British statements and interference in our affairs," Iran's Arabic-language television network Al Alam reported on Thursday.
Britain said that under the new regime, which will be legislated for later in the year, individuals and entities could also be sanctioned if they contributed to the undermining of peace and stability in the Middle East and internationally.
It also said it had given evidence at the UN Security Council that Iran was continuing to send weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, and to Russia, to support its fighting in Ukraine.
Under the new criteria, sanctions could also be targeted at those Britain says are involved in Iran's undermining democracy and the rule of law in the UK, and hostile activities aimed at British people or property, or Britain's allies.
Britain says Iran has made at least 15 attempts to kidnap or even kill British nationals or individuals based in the United Kingdom since the start of last year.
"What we have seen over the last 18 months is an unprecedented level of aggression from Iran against people here in the UK, trying to silence dissenting voices," Cleverly told reporters on Thursday.
Britain has also announced new designations under its existing human rights sanctions regime for Iran.
The U.S. State Department said it supported Britain's plans and urged other "like-minded partners to address Iran's hostile actions."
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Muvija M; Additional reporting by Enas Alashray in Cairo and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Kylie MacLellan, Richard Chang and Daniel Wallis)