January 19, 2009 / 3:54 PM / 11 years ago

France and UK reportedly push for EU sanctions on Iran

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Britain are spearheading an effort within the European Union to pass new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme but have so far had limited success, French daily Le Monde said on Monday.

The two are among the toughest towards Iran among a group of six countries — also including the United States, China, Germany and Russia — that has obtained several rounds of U.N. sanctions against Tehran while pushing for talks.

Western powers fear that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic programme. Iran says it only wants to master nuclear technology to generate electricity in order to meet its growing power needs.

Le Monde said London and Paris had been pushing for the EU to broaden its sanctions to prevent Iran from obtaining equipment and technology for its oil industry, but the daily did not identify or describe its source for that information.

“Having failed in their attempt for now due to the lack of a European consensus, French and British officials seem to be focussing on another objective — banning the activities of Iran’s Saderat and Mellat banks from the EU’s territory,” Le Monde said.

Iran’s failure to heed the U.N. Security Council’s repeated calls on it to suspend uranium enrichment — a process that can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or, potentially, atomic weapons — has prompted the repeated U.N. sanctions against it.

The Security Council’s third sanctions resolution, passed last March, named Bank Saderat as a dubious institution that countries need to be vigilant about.

The United States has imposed its own sanctions on both Saderat and Mellat.

Britain and France were also working on adding to the list of Iranian organisations targeted by EU sanctions in order to make it harder for Iran to skirt international sanctions, Le Monde said.

Italy supported the push for more sanctions but Paris and London’s efforts have met opposition from several other countries protecting their economic interests, it added.

Austria was one such country, due to the fact that Austrian energy company OMV has signed an agreement to develop Iran’s gas resources.

The government in Germany, where several companies do business in Iran, was split between Chancellor Angela Merkel, who favoured more sanctions, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who opposed them, Le Monde added.

Sweden felt sanctions would be more legitimate if they remained within the framework of the U.N. Security Council, while Spain, Greece and Cyprus all wanted to place the emphasis on dialogue with Tehran, the newspaper said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy, editing by Mark Trevelyan

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