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EU To Punish Iran.

EU negotiators, yielding to US pressure, have agreed to widen a ban on financial transactions with Iran and on the export of materials and technology which Iran could use to develop nuclear weapons. EU officials were on Feb. 13 quoted as saying a resolution embodying the wider ban had been negotiated over the previous week and should go far towards satisfying the Bush administration.

Solana spokeswoman Cristina Gallach on Feb. 13 said the EU was growing increasingly frustrated by Iranian intransigence. She acknowledged the EU's approach had so far failed to yield results, saying: "We have not been successful so far in getting the Iranians to stop enrichment. But we will continue to pursue a two-track approach of working towards a negotiated solution while pursuing the UN track of sanctions". She said the EU was preparing to extend the scope of its sanctions beyond the Dec. 23 UNSC resolution, for example, by expanding the list of names of Iranian individuals and institutions who will face EU restrictions like the freezing of financial assets. But she said the EU was still unprepared to go as far as the sanctions being pushed by US. She said: "Our aim is double suspension: We suspend the UN resolutions and Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment", adding that no breakthrough was imminent.

US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns on Feb. 13 said: "This is a very positive initiative because it takes the European Union beyond where they were until recently. It's not everything we would like to see happen. But the trajectory is good and the momentum is good, so we think this is a positive event". A text of the resolution, made public on Feb. 12 by EU officials, calls for steps to carry out UNSC's Dec. 23 resolution.

Europeans have been slow to follow through, saying their governments do not have the legal tools to act against Iranian companies. Two European officials said in some respects the draft complied with US wishes for a broad move against Iran, but in other respects it could fall short. If the EU adopts the resolution, EU governments individually will have to enact laws to carry it out.

A European official on Feb. 13 was quoted as saying: "The point is that it takes time for the Europeans to work out exactly where the centre of gravity is so they can do something like this. It's not as if the European Union can snap its fingers and get it done right away".

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Feb. 13 said in Brussels his recent talks in Tehran had left him and other top EU diplomats encouraged that negotiations might resume over Iran's nuclear programme. But there was no sign Iran would be willing to suspend enrichment, which the West has insisted is a precondition for a resumption of talks. Steinmeier said: "We got the impression that in Iran there's a new ambition to return to the negotiating table". He has taken the lead for the EU because Germany serves as its current president.

UNSC's Dec. 23 resolution listed a dozen individuals and several Iranian firms as effectively off limits to transactions with European banks and European companies.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Feb 19, 2007
Words:534
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