EU leaders to discuss Iran sanctions

Israel concerned by those linking sanctions to flotilla.

ahmadinejad 311 (photo credit: Amir Kholousi\AP)
ahmadinejad 311
(photo credit: Amir Kholousi\AP)
European officials have told their Israeli counterparts in recent days it may be difficult to get support for stiff EU sanctions against Iran because of the Gaza flotilla episode, Israeli officials said Wednesday, on the eve of a discussion among EU leaders about new action on Teheran.
Israel, according to one official, was taking a “wait-and-see” approach to whether the menu of sanctions that the EU is expected to adopt at a meeting Thursday in Luxembourg will include steps against the Iranian energy industry.
RELATED:US widens scope of Iran sanctionsItaly backs Israel's right to self defense
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been saying for months that the only sanctions that will get the Iranian government’s attention are those against the country’s critical energy sector, including steps taken to hit at the country’s ability to export oil and import refined energy products.
While the fourth round of UN sanctions adopted last week did not touch the energy sector, they were still seen in Jerusalem as significant because they could pave the legal and moral path for the EU and then the US to move the bar higher, and impose sanctions of their own that will augment the UN moves.
The EU leaders are scheduled to discuss a new batch of sanctions that have been approved by EU foreign ministers at their meeting on Monday. These new sanctions would reportedly postpone the importation of Iranian gas into the EU.
In addition, Iranian banking and financial services would be forbidden from selling their products in the EU.
According to the EU observer Web site, the sanctions would also call for a freeze on EU based bank accounts belonging to members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, while Irisil, an Iranian shipping company, would be barred from operating in EU waters.
The report said that EU companies would pay a price for the sanctions, since they would be prohibited from investing in or offering technical assistance and technology transfers to Iran’s oil and gas industry.
Large European companies have in recent years signed various initial agreements with Iran for developing large gas fields, but – according to EU observer – they were forced to pull out. These sanctions would make those deals impossible.
The report defined the talks between the EU foreign ministers on Monday as “difficult,” with Sweden’s Carl Bildt saying sanctions alone can’t solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear program, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner saying the sanctions should not harm the Iranian population.
The EU observer reported that Germany’s Guido Westerwelle, whose country’s exports to Iran reached 3.7 billion Euros last year, backed the sanctions as “an important signal of determination,” although he was reportedly more reluctant to support the oil and gas-related measures, and that Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was quoted as saying “I think Europe can toughen sanctions for oil and gas technologies, visa regime and for products which can be used both for military and civilian purposes.”
The Obama administration, meanwhile, said it is expanding US sanctions on Iran, hitting additional companies and individuals with penalties, as a first step in implementing the Iran sanctions resolution passed by the Security Council last week.
The administration said Wednesday the targeted individuals and institutions are helping Iran to develop its nuclear and missile programs and to evade international sanctions.
Additions to its sanctions list include Iran’s Post Bank for its support of nuclear proliferation.
That brings to 16 the number of Iranian-owned banks on the US list.
Meanwhile, Iran said Wednesday it would build four more reactors for medical research.
contributed to this report.