Hague: UK will call for stronger Iran sanctions

EU meeting in Brussels expected to yield harsh sanctions on Iranian regime following storming of British embassy in Tehran.

William Hague and Uri Rosenthal 311 R (photo credit:  REUTERS/Thierry Roge)
William Hague and Uri Rosenthal 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thierry Roge)
Britain will call for stronger economic sanctions on Iran at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday following the storming of its embassy in Tehran, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday.
"I will be advocating an intensification of economic sanctions on Iran, particularly to increase the isolation of the Iranian financial sector," he told BBC radio from Brussels.
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"I stress that the measures I hope we will agree to today are related to the Iranian nuclear program, these are not measures in reaction to what has happened to our embassy," he added.
"Our bigger, long-term concern is the Iranian nuclear program, the danger that poses to the peace of the Middle East and the wider world... and it is for that reason that we will agree, I hope, today to intensify European Union sanctions on Iran," Hague said.
EU foreign ministers plan to meet in Brussels on Thursday to map out Europe’s response to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent weeks that suggested Iran has worked on designing an atom bomb.
Much has already been agreed – the EU will add 180 names to a list of people and entities targeted by pan-European sanctions – but a number of EU capitals have yet to decide exactly how much economic pressure the EU should apply on Iran over its nuclear program, which it says is peaceful.
Britain shut Iran's embassy in London and expelled all its staff on Wednesday, saying that the storming of the British mission in Tehran could not have taken place without consent from Iranian authorities. The incident could provide extra ammunition for European governments pushing for stronger sanctions against Iran – in particular a contentious embargo on Iranian oil, diplomats said Wednesday. A diplomatic source said that London would now support a ban on oil imports from the Islamic Republic.
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“From a political point of view this [attack] cannot, I think, work in the direction of EU-member states wanting to ease pressure on Iran,” the diplomat said. “On the contrary. The whole question is do we go further and add a new set of sanctions apart from those adopted in the past?”
Europe largely in solidarity with Britain after embassy incident
In another response to the storming of the British Embassy compounds, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle recalled the country’s ambassador to Iran Wednesday. The country also summoned Iran’s Ambassador Ali Reza Seikh Attar for a warning because of the violation of diplomatic protocol and international law.
“Germany stands on the side of Great Britain and is not prepared to accept these types of attacks. Iran has the obligation to protect international institutions. The Iranian Ambassador in Berlin was summoned because of the attack to the Foreign Ministry,” said Westerwelle.
Germany has also reduced its diplomatic staff in Tehran after the assault on the embassy.
French Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bernard Valero said that following the embassy attack, Paris would push foreign ministers in Brussels to look at sanctions beyond what had already been agreed – especially proposals made by President Nicolas Sarkozy to freeze the central bank’s assets and to ban oil imports.
French sources say Paris feels that the attack has added to the already long list of factors playing against Tehran, and those that have wavered will be more inclined to listen to the French proposals.
In the past week, some EU capitals have insisted it is too early to adopt them, concerned about the economic consequences of tighter restrictions on a big OPEC-oil producer.
Experts say a European embargo could boost global crude prices at a time when Europe is teetering on the brink of recession and struggling with a mounting debt crisis.
Greece, in particular, has expressed reluctance, EU diplomats say.
Traders say that debt-strapped Athens has been relying on Iranian oil, which comes with an attractive financing offer at a time when banks are increasingly denying it credit.
Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.