(AFP) - The European Union has deplored Iran's lack of cooperation over Tehran's nuclear programme and called for the full implementation of United Nations sanctions.
In conclusions from their council talks in Brussels, EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to halt trade in nuclear-related goods with the Islamic republic, freeze the assets of those linked to the programme and impose targeted travel bans.
It came as Iran said it would block 38 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from entering the country, and a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed not to bow to international pressure.
"The council deplored Iran's failure to take the steps repeatedly required by the IAEA board of governors and the United Nations Security Council," the ministers said in their conclusions, reports Trend.
They welcomed the measures in UN Security Council resolution 1737, passed on December 23, imposing sanctions on Iran for its repeated refusal to fully cooperate with the UN atomic energy watchdog or suspend uranium enrichment.
The ministers said the sanctions "are targeted against the most sensitive parts of the Iranian nuclear and missile programmes, and called on all countries to implement the measures in full and without delay."
When asked how long it would take for Britain to apply the sanctions, British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett said: "In common with everyone else, we will implement them as speedily and as effectively as we can."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency and is a key player in the Iran dossier, said he supported a "strict application" of the resolution.
Highly-enriched uranium can be used to build an atom bomb and the West fears that the Islamic republic could be trying to develop such a weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear programme.
Iran maintains that it is only exercising its right as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop nuclear technology to meet its energy needs.
In Tehran on Sunday, Ahmadinejad pledged that Iran would never bow to UN resolutions on its nuclear programme, as the military prepared for war games -- amid talk of "foreign threats" -- to include short-range missile tests.
"Even if they adopt 10 other resolutions it will not have any effect," he said.
The ministers underlined that the 27-nation bloc has not withdrawn last year's offer of political and economic incentives to encourage Tehran to give up the sensitive enrichment activities.
They said the package could "open the way for a new relationship with Iran based on mutual respect and expanded cooperation, and called upon Iran to seize the opportunity of reaching a negotiated solution."
Also in that vein, the ministers welcomed a move by the security council to halt implementation of the measures if the IAEA deems in an upcoming report that Tehran has suspended enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
They also recalled that it is "EU policy not to sell arms to Iran" -- a reference to what has essentially been a weapons embargo for about the last decade -- but refused to formalise the ban.
The EU is expected to prepare a list of officials subject to visa bans, which could differ from the list annexed to the UN resolution as it might include Iranians studying proliferation-sensitive subjects in Europe.
The ministers' political declaration now allows the EU's legal experts to draw up the necessary legislation for the UN resolution to be implemented.