Reuters: European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana raised the prospect of imposing targeted sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme for the first time on Friday. VIENNA, March 10 (Reuters) – European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana raised the prospect of imposing targeted sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme for the first time on Friday.
In an interview with the Austrian daily Der Standard, published as EU foreign ministers were to begin a two-day meeting in Salzburg, Solana said he did not rule out sanctions at a later stage if Tehran fails to allay concerns it wants nuclear weapons.
The U.N. Security Council is due to take up Iran’s case after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors meeting ended on Wednesday without an agreement among key powers on defusing the standoff.
Ambassadors from permanent council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — meet again on Friday to work out a statement the Western powers hope will be adopted by the 15 Security Council members next week.
“I do not rule out sanctions, but it depends on what kind of sanctions they are,” Solana was quoted as saying, his first explicit mention of sanctions against Iran.
“We certainly do not want to hurt the Iranian people,” he added. “It won’t be easy for the Security Council.”
The EU, led by France, Britain and Germany, started talks with Iran 2-1/2 years ago in the hope of convincing it to scrap uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for power plants or weapons, for economic and political incentives.
Those talks collapsed in August after Iran broke a suspension of enrichment-related work by resuming uranium processing, and a last-gasp meeting between the two sides a week ago failed to produce an agreement.
But diplomats say EU foreign ministers have so far had no discussion of imposing sanctions against Iran, the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter, and it was not certain they would debate the issue at their informal session in Salzburg.
Iran says it only wants nuclear technology to generate electricity.
“The Security Council will work on a presidential statement which confirms once again the authority of the (IAEA). The discussion must begin now,” Solana was quoted as saying.
“Sanctions of some kind may not be ruled out at a later stage. Let us see what the Security Council will do. We must weigh all the options,” he added.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Friday that France was looking for a political solution to the nuclear dispute with Iran rather than seeking to punish Tehran.
“Our goal is political, not at all punitive,” he told RTL radio when asked whether France backed U.S. demands that the Security Council consider sanctions.