EU Exploring New Sanctions on Iran

September 7, 2012  

European Union nations are exploring a new raft of sanctions against Iran as exasperation mounts over blocked talks on the country’s contested nuclear program, several EU ministers said on Friday.

“We might have to decide soon a new round of sanctions in the European Union,” AFP quoted German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as having said during informal talks in Cyprus with his 26 EU counterparts.

He added, “I see a growing consensus between my colleagues. We will not accept a nuclear weapon for Iran.”

AFP reported that after the foreign ministers of Britain and France stated they were calling on their colleagues to agree new sanctions as patience with Iran wore thin, Italian Foreign Minister Guido Terzi said in remarks to journalists: “I agree!”

The door to negotiations for the EU is always open, but “it has to be matched again with increased pressure because up to now there has been no satisfactory outcome in the latest round of negotiations,” Terzi said.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Iran had a right to nuclear energy for civilian purposes but “we consider unacceptable, highly dangerous, the prospect of Iran possessing nuclear weapons.”

He said all foreign ministers who spoke on the issue at the talks favored fresh punitive measures against Iran and that work to agree financial, trade and oil sanctions would begin “in the coming days.”

The last round of EU sanctions, a damaging oil embargo, came into effect on July 1, adding to U.S. financial sanctions aimed at shutting off Iran’s oil exports, which account for half of government revenues.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday said that EU sanctions were having “a serious impact” and that “it is necessary to increase the pressure on Iran, to intensify sanctions, to add further to the EU sanctions.”

Exploring new punitive measures comes amid growing impatience over the lack of progress in months of negotiations with Iran led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on behalf of the major powers.

Ashton had been expected to hold a new set of talks around the end of August with lead Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, but there has been no sign of fresh talks.

In June, talks in Moscow between Iran and the six – the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – hit an impasse.

At the core of the discussions are Iranian efforts to enrich uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, an advance that would bring it close to acquiring weapons-grade material.

World powers are demanding that Tehran abandon such production, ship stockpiles out of the country and close an underground facility where high-grade enrichment takes place. Tehran has refused to meet the demands unless economic sanctions are lifted.

A diplomatic source told AFP on Friday that failing diplomatic progress, new sanctions could be announced at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers in mid-October.

“I call on the Iranian side to take stock of the seriousness of the situation. We will not accept discussions and negotiations that serve only to gain time,” said Westerwelle.

Iran must make “substantial” proposals, give access to all its installations to international inspectors and renounce once and for all nuclear armament, he added.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad admitted this week that his country has “problems” exporting its oil, but said his government was determined to overcome that and other challenges posed by Western economic sanctions.

“There are some problems in selling oil and we are trying to manage it,” he said, accusing “the enemy” of using “psychological warfare” against his country by imposing sanctions that have taken a toll on the economy.

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