Tuesday, January 26, 2010

France Seeks Tougher I.R. Iran Sanctions

Tweet It!

Agence France Presse (AFP)

France on Monday urged its European Union partners to prepare new sanctions against Iran, saying they were now required due to Tehran's intransigence over its nuclear program. "The Europeans have to prepare the sanctions process," European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche told reporters after a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels. He said sanctions were needed because of "Iran's refusal of all offers of a solution" made by the West. "We have been in talks for six years," Lellouche sighed. "All the West's proposals have been rejected and now if we listen to the Iranian spokesman they are reaching 20 per cent enrichment" of uranium in Iran, which is the "threshold to militarisation", he added. "We hope Europeans will work together on preparing the sanctions," he underlined. Three sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions have already been imposed on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, which lies at the heart of international fears about the nature of its nuclear program. The EU 3+3 - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - met in New York earlier this month but failed to reach an agreement about new sanctions. Europe and the West are concerned about Tehran's rejection of a UN-brokered deal under which most of Iran's low enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile would be shipped abroad to be further enriched into reactor fuel.

Tehran ignored a US-set December 31 deadline to accept that offer, drawn up by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, and countered with its own proposal of a simultaneous and staged swap of LEU with reactor fuel. Europe and Washington fear that Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program. But oil-rich Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and solely geared toward generating electricity for its civilian population. Nevertheless Lellouche accepted that without UN sanctions, which involve getting China and Russia on board, there would be no unilateral measures from Europe. "If there is no agreement in the UN Security Council there won't be any sanctions," he stressed. Not all EU nations are keen on the idea of going ahead now with preparations for further sanctions against Tehran. "The sanction instrument is a very blunt one so it should be used with extreme care. Our aim is to get the Iranians to the negotiating table and have a political solution," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was also in no hurry. "We just have to wait and see what comes out of the discussions of the Security Council," she told a press conference after presiding over the EU ministerial talks in Brussels.