EU wary on new Iran sanctions

EU wary on new Iran sanctions

European Union foreign ministers on Monday backed away from threatening Iran with fresh sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme, saying that the bloc should only bring in new restrictions if the United Nations Security Council asked, DPA reported.

The EU has already hit Iran with a range of sanctions, but these have not been enough to stop the programme, leading some member states to question whether further punishment would have any effect.

"The sanction instrument is a very blunt one, so it should be used with extreme care," Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said as he arrived for talks in Brussels with EU counterparts.

"Our aim is to get the Iranians to the negotiating table and have a political solution, and if there are any ... sanctions which can reinforce that possibility, I'm ready to look at them," Bildt said.

The EU has targeted Iran with a series of sanctions since the country stopped cooperating with the UN's nuclear watchdog. They range from asset freezes on banks and key figures linked to the nuclear programme, to embargoes on exports of arms and equipment.

The revelation at the end of 2009 that Iran had built a further nuclear enrichment facility near Qom led to calls for further sanctions.

But EU foreign ministers insisted that the bloc should not move on the matter without the support of the world's greatest powers.

"With Iran, (sanctions) will work out only if all the UN Security Council permanent members agree. ... The EU is ready to do it, but to get really functioning sanctions, we need all big players in the world to be united behind this decision," stressed Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.

Monday's debate came six weeks after EU leaders called on Iran to shut down its controversial uranium-enrichment programme.

   "Iran's persistent failure to meet its international obligations and Iran's apparent lack of interest in pursuing negotiations require a clear response, including through appropriate measures," their joint statement said.

The leaders ordered their foreign ministers to "consider options for next steps" at Monday's meeting.

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