Thursday, June 17, 2010

DTN News: EU hits Iran With Tougher Sanctions Over Nuclear Row

Defense News: DTN News: EU hits Iran With Tougher Sanctions Over Nuclear Row
Source: DTN News / Paul Harrington
(NSI News Source Info) BRUSSELS, Belgium - June 18, 2010: European leaders on Thursday agreed new sanctions on Iran, going further than new UN and US punitive measures, targeting important oil and gas sectors and upsetting Russia in the process. "I believe this is evidence of the clear view in Europe that Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon is fundamentally unacceptable," said British Prime Minister David Cameron, attending his first EU summit since coming to power last month.
The new European Union sanctions include a ban on new investment, technical assistance and technology transfers to Iran's huge gas and oil industry, particularly as regards refining and liquefied natural gas.
It's a crucial area for Iran which is rich in natural energy resources but lacking in refining capacity.
Also hailing the decision, French President Nicolas Sarkozy summed up Europe's carrot and stick approach to Tehran.
"It's the sanctions that increase the chances of dialogue," he told reporters on the margins of the summit.
The new EU measures also target the Islamic Republic's transportation, banking and insurance sectors and slaps new visa bans and asset freezes on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The move came the day after the United States added Iranian individuals and firms to a blacklist and one week after the UN Security Council slapped its fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt nuclear activities.
In an agreed text the EU leaders expressed their "deepening concerns about Iran's nuclear programme."
Tehran says the programme is purely for civilian purposes, but Israel and Western powers fear it may be trying to develop nuclear weapons that would tip the balance of power in the Middle East.
Russia, which was persuaded to support the UN measures, strongly criticised the unilateral US and EU decisions to go further.
"We are extremely disappointed that neither the United States nor the European Union heed our calls to refrain from such moves," Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.
His comments struck a strong note of discord after what has in the past months been relatively harmonious efforts between Russia and Western powers to resolve the nuclear crisis.
The new EU sanctions had been proposed at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, when backers overcame reticence from Sweden and a determination from Germany -- which had doubts about the gas sanctions -- to ensure ordinary Iranians were not unduly affected.
EU president Herman Van Rompuy, who chaired the summit talks, said new sanctions "have become inevitable," given Tehran's intransigence.
Therefore the EU leaders asked their foreign ministers to adopt, at their meeting next month, the UN sanctions and "accompanying measures."
But the EU leaders' joint statement stressed their desire to resolve the dispute through diplomacy and urges Iran to resume negotiations.
"The European Council calls on Iran to demonstrate willingness to build the confidence of the international community and to respond to the invitation for resumption of negotiations," the summit statement said.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has written to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, inviting him to resume negotiations on behalf of the five UN Security Council permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.
Tehran has long said that it accepts in principle such a meeting between Jalili and Ashton.
On June 9, the UN Security Council slapped a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, this time tightening the noose on military and financial transactions.
The US followed up by targeting insurance companies, oil firms and shipping lines linked to Iran's atomic or missile programs as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Iran's Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi.
Iran has repeatedly ignored international demands to halt its uranium enrichment activities.


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