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EU warns it may strengthen Iran sanctions

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-11-14

EU ministers threatened to strengthen sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear ambitions on Monday, with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé saying that the bloc planned to appeal to the European Investment Bank to freeze loans to Tehran.

AFP - European Union foreign ministers threatened Monday to tighten sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear drive but shied away from wielding the threat of military action.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said after talks with European Union counterparts that the EU would reinforce sanctions against Tehran by asking the European Investment Bank (EIB) to freeze loans to the Islamic republic.

But Juppe warned against military intervention, saying it "would be the worst thing and it would drag us into an uncontrollable spiral."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said too that military action would be "counter-productive."

Only British Foreign Secretary William Hague said all options should remain on the table.

Asked to comment on talk of a strike against Iran, Hague said: "We are not considering that at the moment. We are not calling for or advocating military action.

"At the same time we say all options should remain on the table."

In a statement, the 27 EU ministers voiced "increasing concerns" over Tehran's programme and the lack of progress on the diplomatic front, a week after the International Atomic Energy Agency cited "credible" intelligence suggesting Iran carried out work towards building nuclear warheads.

"We urge Iran to address the international concerns over the nature of its nuclear programme through full cooperation with the IAEA and by demonstrating readiness to engage seriously in concrete discussions on confidence-building steps," the ministers said.

Warning that Iran was in breach of international obligations, the ministers said that they would "examine possible new and reinforced measures" when they are next due to meet next month.

"It is clear that the IAEA report shows that Iran is making progress in its project to build a nuclear weapon. It is a major danger for the stability if the region and the world," Juppe said.

Given that Iran is showing "zero" interest in negotiating, Juppe said some avenues were available to the ministers.

"We will reinforce our sanctions," he said. "We will ask the EIB to stop investing in Iran.

"That is the weapon we can use today -- and that we will use with determination."

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also opposed military action, saying "some hype" was built around last week's IAEA report.

"I don't think any military response is justified or called for. We have to solve this by diplomatic means," Bildt said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is representing six world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- in stalled talks with Iran aimed at convincing Tehran to freeze nuclear activities.

Ashton told reporters she was still waiting for a response from Iran on her letter offering to resume talks, but that negotiations had to take place "absolutely in the spirit we proposed."

Date created : 2011-11-14

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