Sunday

23rd Feb 2020

EU sanctions against Iran 'within days,' says minister

The European Union could announce "very strong sanctions" against Tehran within "days or weeks," Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb said on Thursday (11 February). On the same day, Iran declared itself a "nuclear state," prompting the US to call for tougher sanctions.

The UN security council should take the lead on sanctions, but if that is not successful "we'll do it through the EU. I would estimate, in a matter of days or weeks," Mr Stubb said at a press conference in Ottawa, after meeting his Canadian counterpart.

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  • Iran has declared itself to be a "nuclear state" (Photo: Wikipedia)

Sanctions would involve a financial embargo and "issues related to energy," he said.

China and Russia have a veto right in the UN security council and could block efforts spearheaded by the US to adopt tougher sanctions on Iran. This week, Moscow expressed frustration with Tehran over the nuclear dossier. But China is more reserved on the matter.

On Thursday, in festivities marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country had begun production of highly enriched uranium in defiance of the West.

"The head of Iran's atomic energy organisation said the first stock of 20 percent fuel was produced and delivered to scientists," he said in a speech before a crowd of several hundred thousand supporters.

Mr Ahmadinejad stressed Iran was now a "nuclear" state which had nothing to hide and would not be bullied. "They [the Americans] want to dominate our region, but the Iranian people will never let them do that," he added.

Iran also turned down an offer brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last year to ship uranium out of the country, enrich it and return it for use in medical research.

The US doubts that Mr Ahmadinejad's claims are true, but is pushing for tougher sanctions, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said also on Thursday.

"Not taking the IAEA up and its partners up on a very commonsense offer, leads, quite frankly, the world to believe that Iran has other ideas," Mr Gibbs said.

As for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, she has so far kept a cautious line on the possibility of further sanctions.

Speaking at an international security conference in Munich last Saturday, Ms Ashton said that "the possibilities for dialogue are not exhausted."

She did however react to the violent crackdown on opposition protesters in Tehran this week. In a statement issued on Thursday, Ms Ashton said the EU noted with "great concern" the arrests and violence against opposition leaders.

"The choices this regime is making vis-a-vis its people and the international community are the wrong ones. No amount of inflated rhetoric can hide that. The regime is letting its own people down; and they deserve better," she said.

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