Naples, Italy — The European Common Market said Sunday it would start a trade embargo against Iran Thursday, but the scope of sanctions appeared to be reduced compared with an earlier plan. Foreign ministers of the nine EEC countries issued a statement after a two-day meeting here, saying they were imposing sanctions to obtain the release of the 50 American hostages held in Iran. But Italian Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo said contracts signed before last Nov. 4 -- the date the hostages were seized -- would not be affected by the embargo.
Last month the ministers agreed on a more wide-ranging package of sanctions, due to go into effect May 17, which would have canceled existing contracts. But legal difficulties over such a move and possible responsibility of governments toward companies that suffered through lost contracts arose in several community countries.
Mr. Colombo said the sanctions had been delayed to overcome technical problems and to allow the Common Market countries to act in concert.