Thu, Dec 22, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Diplomats agree to pressure Iran over nuclear program

Reuters, ROME

Diplomats from the US, the EU and other allies agreed on Tuesday to step up pressure on Iran to force it to resume talks over its nuclear program, an Italian diplomatic source said.

The diplomats from the so-called “group of like-minded nations” met in Rome to discuss further sanctions against Iran, which could include a possible EU oil embargo.

“The participants expressed a strong determination to continue to work together to reinforce pressure on Iran to re-start negotiations,” the source said, giving no further detail.

Iran faces tightening sanctions over a nuclear program it says is for peaceful power generation, but which others suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

The closed-door meeting took place under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Diplomats said earlier they would consider arguments over a possible EU oil embargo against Iran. A decision could be made when EU foreign ministers meet next month.

The participants were countries that have imposed bilateral sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program that go beyond UN Security Council sanctions.

The group included the US, the EU several European nations, Australia, Japan, South Korea and other countries, but it was not clear if all of them were represented.

The small informal group has been meeting for two years and its goal is to share information and discuss the next steps in the sanctions process.

The US has long banned Iranian crude oil imports and last week the US Congress voted through restrictions on dealing with the Iranian central bank.

The White House must decide whether or not to grant waivers to major Iranian oil importers like China, India and South Korea that need to deal with the bank to pay for Iran’s crude.

In Vienna, an Iranian envoy said that Teheran had invited the UN nuclear watchdog to talks and would be ready to discuss concerns about its disputed atomic ambitions.

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