A French plan to impose fresh sanctions against Iran very soon has found strong support by the UK, whilst Germany and Italy are more hesitant. A British Foreign Office spokesman told AFP that the UK ‘wholeheartedly’ backs the initiative.
Germany and Italy are reportedly not so keen to act outside the United Nations. A letter written by the French foreign minister, urged other European countries that it is necessary that new measures are taken straight away. "Time is working against us, since each day Iran moves closer to mastering the technology of enrichment, which means a de facto military nuclear capacity," Kouchner wrote. He proposed "a combination of dialogue and firmness".
The proposal has sparked an angry reaction from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He said that Iran would not give in to international pressure. "The enemies have assembled all they have but I tell the whole world that Iran has conquered difficult passes and no power can halt the successive victories of Iran," ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
If Kouchner gets his way, new sanctions will be underpinning Western demands as negotiations on a United Nations Security Council resolution go underway.
‘We support Kouchner’s position wholeheartedly and we’re looking forward to a discussion with our EU partners,’ a Foreign Office spokesman told AFP. ‘We obviously work very, very closely with the French and the Germans and others on this … and we are very supportive of the French position on this,” the UK foreign office spokesman said.
In the past, the UK has shied away from more bullish statements, having condemned US officials for threatening Iran with a military strike.
The UK, Germany and France have been most closely involved with the Iranian nuclear issue, having led negotiations with Iranians in the past few years. Currently, the Italians are seeking a more prominent role in the issue because it is Iran’s top European trading partner.
The Iranians are seen to have recently booked a major victory diplomatically last month, when the UN Security Council decided to delay a third phase of sanctions against Iran, a move which follows a surprise agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Iranians agreed to allow IAEA inspectors unprecedented access to its atomic program.
Western countries, spurred on by the US and France, however insist that Iran must cease all operations at nuclear facilities before they will cease sanctions.
Political analysts are little surprised by the French action, because only days before the UN last met, the French had already said that they would impose a new set of Europe-induced sanctions. The UK spokesman indicated that the Europeans, who are very familiar with the Iranian conditions because they have been negotiating with them for years, are hoping they will be effective at pressurizing the Iranians into temporarily halting all nuclear development work.
The authorities in Iran reacted angrily to Mr Kouchner’s letter. They summoned France’s charge d’affaires in Tehran to protest.
The French FM last month uttered comments that boosted the debate to a new level of urgency, when he said that the world should prepare for a nuclear war. He later qualified his comment and stressed that all diplomatic means ought to be given a try.