Last updated: 23 January, 2012

Israel: Tougher EU sanctions on Iran important

Israel on Monday expressed cautious optimism ahead of a key meeting of EU foreign ministers at which they were to slap an oil embargo on Iran in a bid to force it to halt its nuclear programme.

“This tightening of the sanctions and the tone adopted by the Europeans is important because it makes clear to the Iranians that it is unacceptable they continue their nuclear programme,” Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor told army radio.

“Iran must understand that there is a determination to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons,” he added.

“The Iranian regime is concerned about the impact of these sanctions, which have a chance of succeeding,” said Meridor, a senior cabinet minister who is also responsible for the atomic affairs portfolio.

But he said it would have been better for such sanctions to have been put in place “faster”.

In order to be effective, such sanctions should also be applied by countries such as Japan and South Korea which “continue to purchase oil from Iran and who must participate in the sanctions in order to raise the price” for the Islamic republic, he said.

Top European Union diplomats were to meet in Brussels at 0900 GMT to tighten existing sanctions by banning imports of Iranian crude as well as targeting finance, petrochemicals and gold to pressure Iran

The measures come in the wake of reports by the UN atomic agency, the IAEA, that Tehran may be inching ever closer to building a nuclear bomb.

Israel fears a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an unacceptable threat to the Jewish state and has refused to rule out a pre-emptive military strike.

It has also been pushing for biting sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors in a bid to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear programme, which Israel and the West believe masks a drive to develop a nuclear bomb, an ambition which the Islamic republic strongly denies.