Bloomberg: European Union governments would impose sanctions only as a “last resort” to punish Iran for building up its nuclear capabilities, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said. Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) — European Union governments would impose sanctions only as a “last resort” to punish Iran for building up its nuclear capabilities, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said.
Iran today said it would restart research on the nuclear fuel cycle, defying European and U.S. warnings and reviving concerns that the Islamic state is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
“There’s always the possibility of sanctions, but the 25 member states have always maintained the view that this should be a last resort,” Schuessel told a Vienna news conference to mark the start of Austria’s six-month EU presidency.
Iran, under threat of United Nations penalties over its atomic program since September, says it is pursuing nuclear technology for civilian use, while the U.S. and EU are concerned over an arms race in the Middle East.
Tensions have been heightened by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel, including a denial of the Holocaust and a call last year to wipe the Jewish state off the map.
“Iran will today resume nuclear fuel research as scheduled,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told a Tehran news conference today without disclosing more about the work being done.
Iran’s resumption of nuclear activities is “certainly not a confidence-building element,” Schuessel said. He called on the “forces of reason” to prevail in Iran. Iran “can’t just strengthen the forces that evidently are looking for confrontation.”
EU governments, represented by Britain, France and Germany, have offered to negotiate over closer trade ties as long as the Tehran leaders abandon the uranium enrichment and reprocessing needed for weapons. The next EU-Iran session is scheduled for Jan. 18 in Vienna, the seat of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency.
Schuessel endorsed a Jan. 7 EU statement warning Iran not to make a “unilateral move at a moment when international confidence in the peaceful nature of its program is far from restored.”
Iran is weighing a Russian proposal to break the deadlock by allowing it to enrich uranium in Russia. Iran hasn’t rejected the proposal out of hand, while insisting on the right to reprocess uranium on its own soil.