Catherine Ashton talks with EU foreign ministers 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thierry Roge)
- European Union foreign ministers spoke out in favor of tougher
sanctions against Iran on Monday, but ruled out any military action for
Several EU ministers spoke ahead of a meeting a week after
publication of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that
said Tehran had worked on designing a nuclear bomb - a charge it denies.
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The United States and Israel have refused to rule out any option to stop Iran acquiring a nuclear arsenal.
"Sanctions are unavoidable and harsh sanctions are unavoidable too if
Iran continues refusing to work with the IAEA," German Foreign Minister
Guido Westerwelle told reporters as he arrived for the meeting.
"Iran has the right use civil nuclear power but also has the duty to
refuse all means of nuclear weaponry and to make this clear before the
However, he said Germany would not consider military intervention. "We
won't be part of a discussion about a military intervention ... such a
discussion is counter-productive."
Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said Britain was not yet considering military action either.
"We are not calling for, or advocating, military action," he said. "At
the same time, we are saying that all options are on the table." He
called for "peaceful, legitimate pressure" to be stepped up on Iran.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, asked about possible military intervention, said: "I don't exclude anything."
Diplomats in Brussels say EU foreign ministers may be ready to approve new sanctions on Dec. 1.
Iran already faces a wide range of UN sanctions, as well as some imposed unilaterally by the United States and the EU.
New EU sanctions would be a significant part of Western efforts to
ratchet up pressure on Tehran after the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog,
produced a trove of intelligence suggesting that Iran is seeking
Western governments would prefer further UN Security Council measures
against Tehran. But Russia and China, both permanent Security Council
members with veto power, are opposed and on Thursday said new sanctions
would not work.
Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for producing electricity and
other peaceful purposes, said last week it remains ready for
negotiations with world powers on the issue.