Top EU official back Iran sanctions

As new sanctions are advanced, former Italian FM tells 'Post' Europe ignored Israel's security needs.

Frattini 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Frattini 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Senior EU official Franco Frattini took a tough stance on Iran Tuesday, telling The Jerusalem Post, "I support severe [Security Council] sanctions" if Teheran does not halt its uranium enrichment program within a month. Europe "cannot leave Israel alone" in its efforts to thwart Iran's pursuit of a nuclear bomb, and it should have the diplomatic support of the international community in that pursuit, said Frattini, EU commissioner for justice, freedom and security, and a former Italian foreign minister. He remained convinced of the dangers to Europe and to global security caused by the Iranian nuclear program, he said, despite the US National Intelligence Estimate report released last month that concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Iran must freeze its nuclear program, including the parts it claims are for civilian use, until it provides complete information on it to the international community, Frattini said. "If they would have agreed about transparency of their nuclear exercise the situation would be different. But without that they are leading us toward adopting a third set of sanctions," he said. Also Tuesday, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany agreed on a new draft Security Council resolution. Diplomats said it would focus on strengthening and expanding existing sanctions. "We agreed together today on the contents of such a resolution," German Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after meeting with diplomats from the US, France, Britain, Russia and China. "Germany, France and Great Britain will submit a draft resolution to the Security Council," where it could be discussed with the remaining council members in the coming weeks, he said. Officials said all six nations represented at the two-hour meeting would vote for the resolution. A European diplomat said it would not include new economic sanctions. "It increased the severity of the sanctions, and it expands the sanctions in some of the categories," said a US official who referred to travel bans and asset freezes, but said the group had agreed not to release the full text of the agreement until it had been distributed to the remaining Security Council members. In talking with the Post, Frattini declined to discuss specific sanctions. Earlier in the day, when addressing the eighth annual Herzliya Conference, he said that if Iran's nuclear program succeeded it "would be the only OPEC country to have an atomic bomb." Frattini added, "You can only imagine the consequences this could have for Israel, for the region, on the petrol prices and on the global security." Later, speaking to reporters, he discussed the rockets attacks from Gaza and Israeli retaliation efforts including a blockade of fuel and essential supplies, which it eased on Tuesday. He said Israeli actions did not constitute war crimes. "We have to take into account that the Gaza Strip has become a base from where rockets are launched every day against innocent people in Israel," said Frattini. Ultimately, he said, Hamas was responsible for the conditions under which Gazans lived. He said he was glad Israel had eased the situation for the Palestinians, but "we have to make it known to the population [in Gaza] that Hamas is responsible for bringing them only disaster." As long as Hamas is determined to destroy Israel, "it is not a viable interlocutor," Frattini said. "The final and lasting solution should be to reduce and finally eliminate the influence of Hamas," he said, adding that the best way to do so would be to strengthen the Palestinian Authority so it could deal with Hamas. He dismissed the idea of deploying European troops in Gaza as "premature." Frattini was even more negative regarding the idea of bringing in NATO troops. "Knowing a bit about the Arab world, there would be a very negative reaction to even talk about deploying NATO troops," he said. Frattini spoke very positively about the common bonds between Israel and Europe. In addressing the Herzliya conference, he acknowledged that the EU and Israel have had a rocky relationship in the past, filled with misunderstandings. "Israel has been complaining for years about Europe - and sometimes, not without reason," he said. Europe had placed too much blame on Israel for the failure of the peace process and had ignored Israel's concerns about terrorism, fanaticism and the refusal of the Arab world to recognize its existence, he said. "For too long Israel's security predicament eluded our understanding and was dismissed as an excuse for diplomatic inaction," Frattini said. Israel was a natural partner for Europe because the two societies share common traditions and values, as well as the same concerns when it came to terrorism, he said. Now that Europe had a better understanding of the complexities of the Middle East, it was willing to take risks and "take on board Israeli concerns and interests in a way that was not on our agenda in the first years of the intifada," said Frattini. As a friend, Europe had a right to criticize, but in so doing it should acknowledge the dilemmas that Israel faces, he said. Similarly, he said, Europe should have moved faster to recognize the anti-Semitism that was unleashed once the second intifada started in 2000. Such hatred of Jews threatens the fabric of European democratic society, he said. "This prejudice, this stance toward Israel and Jews has no place in today's Europe, must not have a place in today's Europe. It does not matter if it is presented as a side effect of political grievances. It is simply unjustifiable. Full stop," said Frattini. While in Israel, Frattini opened the second European Commission Seminar on the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Anti-Semitism. In the near future, he said, the EU and Israel planned to hold a seminar on halting the flow of money to terrorists, including seeking ways to increase the transparency of financial interactions. Frattini said he was also looking for ways that Israel could play a grater role in Europol, including the exchange of data, but added that such a move was dependent of the passage of new legislation on data protection. AP contributed to this report.