EU foreign ministers approve tougher sanctions against Iran

01:03, July 27, 2010      

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European Union (EU) foreign ministers on Monday approved tougher sanctions on Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, including measures to block oil and gas investment and curtail its refining and natural gas capability.

EU's restrictive measures, which went beyond UN sanctions imposed on June 10, followed a similar U.S. move.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain has been in recent weeks seeking an agreement in the EU on a strong package of sanctions implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1929. London also wanted a message to Iran that it can not just walk away from negotiations and expects no further pressure.

The new sanctions include restrictions on banking and insurance, transport, and investment in new oil and gas fields or technical assistance to oil and gas development.

"And I hope Iran takes the message from that -- that the European nations are open to negotiation about the nuclear program, but if they do not respond, we will intensify the pressure," Hague said.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also said that the EU has to contribute its own measures in addition to the UN Security Council sanctions to press Iran back to the negotiating table.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the Americans do not have much room to tighten their sanctions as they have had sanctions since 1979.

"Now we (the EU) go somewhat beyond. That might have an effect," he told the press. "But without emphasizing and strengthening the diplomatic track, there is a risk of ending up with a dead end, which can be dangerous."

Acting Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere stressed that the EU position is "very balanced," as it is a "dual-track" position.

"We want to be able to encourage Iran to come to the negotiation table, which can be the solution for the problems. At the same time, since it is a dual-track, if dialogue is not possible sanctions can be necessary and then they have to be balanced," he said.

Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly submitted a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on resuming nuclear talks.

The letter, jointly provided by Iran's National Security Supreme Council and Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, expresses Iran's readiness to start uranium swap talks, Iranian satellite Press TV reported on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran is ready to start the nuclear talks "without delay," the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

Source: Xinhua


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