Reuters: The European Union instructed experts on Monday to study further possible sanctions on Iran unless its halts nuclear activities the West suspects are aimed at making atomic bombs. By Mark John
LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – The European Union instructed experts on Monday to study further possible sanctions on Iran unless its halts nuclear activities the West suspects are aimed at making atomic bombs.
The statement gave no timeframe and did not mention a French call for EU states to consider European sanctions, for example further restricting the Iranian banking system, without waiting for the United Nations to act.
“The (European) Council agreed that the EU will consider what additional measures it might take in order to support the UN process and the shared objectives of the international community, and invited relevant Council bodies to provide timely advice,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement.
The French idea has split the EU, with countries such as Germany and Italy reluctant to act, but French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denied the idea had little backing in the bloc.
“France is not isolated, and not only is it not isolated, it is being followed,” Kouchner told a news conference. “It is true some believe sanctions are not efficient and say we should wait … We shall see in late November.”
By that time the U.N. nuclear watchdog is due to report on Iran’s cooperation with its agents, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will assess his efforts to draw Tehran into negotiations on inducements for suspending uranium enrichment.
“I will be meeting Dr (Ali) Larijani soon in order to maintain the contact that we started some time ago,” Solana said of discussions with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator that have so far failed to yield a breakthrough.
France made its appeal to EU partners to take the lead on sanctions earlier this month after the U.N. Security Council decided to delay further measures, Russia in particular calling for more time for Tehran to change its stance.
Britain said stepping up pressure on Iran could help.
“There was a very strong view that the diplomatic track was the right track, but it had to have teeth,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters.
“There’s a very strong feeling we had to support (the UN process) and that is why the EU will be looking into the whole range of sanctions options in the interim period over the next six weeks.”
Iran denies it wants nuclear bombs, insisting its program is aimed purely at generating electricity.
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom)