EU Preparing More Iran Sanctions
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday said he was confident the European Union would impose far-reaching sanctions on Iran's oil industry at an EU meeting next week.
Hague also said he hoped the 27-member European bloc could agree on further sanctions against Syria within the next 10 days due to its refusal to halt a bloody military crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
EU states have agreed in principle to ban imports of Iranian oil over Tehran's nuclear program and are now said to be hammering out the details for implementing the ban as a January 23 meeting of foreign ministers approaches.
Iran has threatened to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if foreign sanctions are imposed on its crude exports - a move that could trigger military conflict with Western nations.
The United States 5th Fleet based in Bahrain has said any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world's oil flows, would be regarded as "an act of war."
"We must not be put off further sanctions by bluster or statements from Iran," Hague said. "This is an increasingly dangerous situation that Iran is developing a military nuclear program."
Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons, but the International Atomic Energy Agency has published a scathing report that says Iran has sought - and continues to seek - nuclear technology with single-use military applications.
Israel, Gulf Arab states, and Western nations have taken Iran's refusal to cooperate with IAEA inspectors under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – to which Tehran is a signatory – as a clear sign of Tehran's ill-intent.
"I am confident we will adopt very significant additional measures against Iran at the European Foreign Affairs Council a week tomorrow, on the 23rd, covering the oil sector and possibly other sectors as well," Hague said.
Britain is one of six world powers that has engaged in talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Hague said that if Iran continued on its "dangerous course" it would lead to nuclear proliferation across the Middle East that would be extremely dangerous for the people of Iran, for the region and for the peace of the world.
His statements were taken as a reference to Saudi Arabia's vow that, should Iran acquire an atomic bomb, Riyadh will seek nuclear weapons as well.
"Our sanctions are part of trying to get Iran to change course and to enter negotiations and we should not be deterred from implementing those," Hague said.
"We will continue to intensify our own sanctions and those of the European Union," he added.
Hague's remarks come on the heels by a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Iran's economy is "wobbling" and that more stringent sanctions are needed to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.