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Why Europe wants stiffer sanctions on Iran

Germany, France, and UK are ready to impose oil and gas sanctions on Iran to stave off military strikes. But Oct. 1 talks about Iran's nuclear program will likely delay any moves.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 16, 2009


Europe's strong advocacy for more sanctions on Iran – led by France, Germany, and Britain – will now wait for the Oct. 1 talks between Washington and Tehran to play out, analysts here say.

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Europe's leaders have talked an increasingly tough line on Iran sanctions, including cutting off imports of oil and gasoline, should Iran not satisfy nuclear demands by the United Nations (UN) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by the end of September. That deadline is now trumped by the Oct. 1 talks.

In Europe's view, sanctions are punitive and symbolic – an alternative to the military strikes called for today by former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. But there's fresh debate in Europe over whether sanctions will – or won't – widen a rift between ordinary Iranians and their authoritarian government.

"The EU has so far been able to agree to sanctions stronger than the UN asked for," says Bruno Tertrais of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "The consensus position on Iran is fairly hawkish."

How long the unity will last among European Union members, given that some of them have large commercial interests at stake, is unclear, he says. But he also adds that "If the EU is divided, it is also because of the lack of a clear US policy."

Europe takes a "twin-track" approach to Iran's unwillingness to show the extent of the development of its centrifuge technology and whether its suspected uranium enrichment is weapons-grade or not. The EU is offering inducements for stopping uranium enrichment, and threatening harsher sanctions, if Iran doesn't comply.

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said Tuesday the EU should "unilaterally" adopt sanctions if the UN can't agree to them on Iran.