EU presidency vows tougher oil, financial sanctions on Iran

Harsher sanctions looming

COPENHAGEN - The Danish presidency of the European Union on Wednesday said harsher European sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, targeting not only its oil sector but also its central bank, would be decided on later this month.
The issue of new sanctions against Iran "will be dealt with on January 23" during the next European foreign ministers' meeting, which had initially been scheduled for January 30 but was pushed forward, Denmark's top diplomat Villy Soevndal told a gathering of international media in Copenhagen.
"We'll go further both on oil sanctions and on sanctions against the financial structures" in Iran, he said in response to a question on whether the Iranian central bank would be targeted.
The recent developments in Iran's nuclear programme, including the confirmation that it has begun enriching uranium to 20 percent at its Fordo fortified underground bunker, "adds to the impression that they do not want to abide by international rules," Soevndal said.
"We have to increase the pressure for Iran to come back to the negotiating table," he insisted.
The EU decided in principle at the beginning of the month on introducing an oil embargo against Iran, but numerous details remain unresolved.
The EU is collectively the second-biggest destination for Iranian oil exports after China, taking in some 450,000 barrels per day, and the countries most dependent on Iranian oil, like Greece, Italy and Spain, want to delay the start of the sanctions while they search for other sources of the black gold.
The Danish foreign minister meanwhile said he was sure alternative oil sources would not be difficult to find.
"Countries in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would be very interested in this situation to increase their production," Soevndal said, adding that "we know Libya is on its way to increase its (oil) production," which could also provide an alternative source.
"The international community is working hard" on this issue, he stressed.