Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:21 am (KSA) 21:21 pm (GMT)

EU may go further than UN on Iran: diplomats

A final decision on Iran will be made at a full EU summit in the Belgian capital on Thursday
A final decision on Iran will be made at a full EU summit in the Belgian capital on Thursday

The European Union foresees going further than the United Nations in imposing fresh sanctions on Iran over its suspect nuclear program, diplomats in Brussels said Thursday.

The matter was discussed by EU ambassadors in Brussels ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday with a final decision to be made at a full European summit in the Belgian capital the following Thursday.

"That proposal is for the EU to come up with different sanctions, that we go further than the U.N.," one national diplomat said.

 I think it is very important that the European Union does take further measures to show that the European Union is prepared on this subject and others to use its weight in the world 
British Foreign Secretary William Hague

While there are still differences of opinion, "it is more likely that additional sanctions on behalf of the European Union will be imposed," she added.

"There are several options on the table," another high-ranking European diplomat said.

The EU nations now have "to find a common denominator to send a signal" to Tehran, he added.

A new U.N. Security Council resolution, the fourth of its kind, expands an arms embargo and bars the country from sensitive activities such as uranium mining.

It also authorizes states to conduct high-sea inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items for Iran and adds 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.

Tehran maintains its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful civilian purposes, while Western nations have charged that Iran is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

"Further measures"

In Berlin, British Foreign Secretary William Hague championed "further measures" against Iran in addition to new U.N. sanctions.

"I think it is very important that the European Union does take further measures to show that the European Union is prepared on this subject and others to use its weight in the world," Hague told reporters.

"It is very important that we give that lead. But the discussion of specific measures is of course something we will have to do with our colleagues from other nations."

"The idea at the European summit is to welcome the U.N. Security Council resolution... and to consider a number of areas where it would be possible to adopt tougher measures," another diplomat said.

These extra measures could concern banking, insurance, asset freezes and transport as well as the oil sector, he added.

The European Union foreign ministers are expected to reach an agreement in principle for the enforced sanctions when they meet on Monday, with the EU heads of state and government formally adopting the agreement on Thursday.

However the EU is keen to get Iran back to the international negotiating table.

On Wednesday EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton offered to meet Iran's top nuclear negotiator "at the earliest opportunity."

Ashton's office said the U.N. Security Council resolution "keeps the door open for continued engagement" between the international powers and Iran.

Ashton wants to resume negotiations on behalf of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

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