Reuters: European Union foreign ministers are to step up pressure on Iran on Monday, a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged to pursue the country’s nuclear programme but announced no new atomic work.
By Ingrid Melander
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union foreign ministers are to step up pressure on Iran on Monday, a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged to pursue the country’s nuclear programme but announced no new atomic work.
The EU’s 27 foreign ministers are also set to back former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo and discuss security in the Serb province after two people died in clashes on Sunday between police and Albanians protesting over the plan.
Ahmadinejad, under pressure at home to tone down speeches critics say helped isolate Iran, marked the 28th anniversary of Iran’s revolution on Sunday by saying Iran would not suspend its nuclear programme but was ready to enter into talks.
“That would not in any way meet the demands of the Security Council,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told French radio, saying Iran must stop nuclear activities before international sanctions can be lifted.
The United Nations imposed preliminary sanctions on Iran in December over its failure to prove its experimental efforts to enrich uranium were geared solely to generating electricity as it said.
The United States has accused the EU of dragging its feet on implementing the sanctions and urged it to follow it with measures such as banning business with Iran’s Bank Sepah.
EU foreign ministers are set at their regular monthly meeting in Brussels to pledge to strictly implement the U.N. sanctions while resisting U.S. and British pressure to go further at this stage, EU diplomats said.
“The EU text transcribes the U.N. sanctions one on one in a very strict and stringent manner,” one EU diplomat said of a text being drafted by EU diplomats.
“If you want to go further on some points it takes time, and we wanted to be fast,” the diplomat said, referring to the need to get consensus among the EU’s members. “But the text leaves the possibility (to go further) in the future.”
The U.N. sanctions against Tehran ban the transfer of sensitive nuclear materials to Iran, freeze financial assets of those linked with the nuclear programme and ask countries to pass on information about those on the list.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana is to brief the ministers on his discussion with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Munich on Sunday. Solana said no deal had been reached but possible solutions were explored.
All EU states agree on the substance of the draft text to implement the sanctions on Iran, but a row over Gibraltar threatens to delay its formal adoption, diplomats said.
The stand-off centres on Spain’s refusal to accept that the EU text lists it among “competent authorities” to apply the sanctions, reflecting the centuries-old dispute between Britain and Spain on Gibraltar.