UK calls for tougher sanctions against Iran; Israel says there is no Iran strike for now

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague calls for tougher sanctions against Iran ahead of a meeting for the European Union foreign ministers in Brussels to discuss the IAEA’s latest report on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. (File photo)

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague called for tougher sanctions against Iran and accused the Islamic Republic of helping Syria with its crackdown against on protesters.

In a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels, Britain will call for stronger economic sanctions on Iran on Thursday following the storming of its embassy in Tehran, William Hague said.

“I will be advocating an intensification of economic sanctions on Iran, particularly to increase the isolation of the Iranian financial sector,” he told BBC radio from Brussels.

“I stress that the measures I hope we will agree today are related to the Iranian nuclear program, these are not measures in reaction to what has happened to our embassy,” he added.

Britain closed down Iran’s embassy in London and expelled all its staff on Wednesday, saying the storming of the British mission in Tehran on Tuesday could not have taken place without consent from Iranian authorities.

“Our bigger, long-term concern is the Iranian nuclear program, the danger that poses to the peace of the Middle East and the wider world ... and it is for that reason that we will agree, I hope, today to intensify European Union sanctions on Iran,” Hague said.

EU foreign ministers will meet in Brussels later on Thursday to map out Europe’s response to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that suggested Iran has worked on designing an atom bomb.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said there was support for new sanctions.

“On Iran it’s a case of adding more,” Ashton said. “You know we've been working to, if you like, ratchet up the sanctions,” she said. “We’re talking about a range of sanctions. It will be decided today exactly what those sanctions should be.”

Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said on Thursday he was prepared to agree to an oil embargo against Iran, but he questioned the effectiveness of such a measure.

“I am prepared to go along with that,” Bildt told reporters in Brussels.

“I don't think it will necessarily have that much of an effect because of the nature of the global oil market,” he said.

Israel and much of the international community fears that Iran’s nuclear program masks a drive for a weapons capability. Tehran denies any such ambition and says the program is for peaceful civilian energy and medical purposes only.

Israel and Iran

Israel has pushed Washington and the EU for tough sanctions against Tehran, but warned that it would not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and that military action to stop the program remained an option.

“We have no intention of acting for the moment... We should not engage in war when it is not necessary, but there may come a time or another when we are forced to face tests,” said the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, on Thursday in remarks to public radio, but said that the Jewish state would keep all options open

“Our position has not changed on three points: a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, we are determined to stop that, and all options are on the table,” Barak added.

Barak said he was confident that military action against Iran would not be devastating for Israel.

“War is not a picnic, but if Israel is forced to act, we won’t have 50,000, 5,000 or even 500 dead, so long as people stay in their homes,” he said, noting that rockets fired at Israel by Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War had not killed a single Israeli.

Asked about potential differences between the United States and Israel on tactics to stop Iranian nuclear development, Barak stressed that the Jewish state would ultimately take the decisions it thought best.

“It must be understood that Israel is sovereign. The government, the army and the security services are the only ones responsible for the security and the existence of Israel,” he said.

Barak declined to comment on what was behind at least two explosions in Iranian cities in recent weeks, only one of which has been confirmed by Iranian authorities.

“Anything that sets back the Iranian nuclear program, whether it is accidental or the product of other methods, is welcome,” he said, refusing to say whether Israeli forces had any role in the incidents.

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