The new sanctions - under an executive order from George Bush, the US president, signed in June 2005 - reflects the administration's determination to use US authorities to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear programme, something Tehran has repeatedly insisted it will not do.


US officials said they hope such action will set an example for other countries as to how a recently passed UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran should be implemented.


Bank Sepah International Plc (BSIP), incorporated in the United Kingdom, specialises in providing finance and services for international trade worldwide with a particular focus on Iran and the Persian Gulf region, according to its website.


The bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank Sepah, Iran, which was established in 1925 and is the oldest of the Iranian banks. Bank Sepah has a large network of branches in Iran as well as offices in Paris, Frankfurt and Rome.