Last updated: 10 January, 2012

EU brings forwards decision on Iran sanctions

The European Union on Tuesday brought forward by a week to January 23 a foreign ministers’ meeting set to decide new sanctions against Iran.

“On proposal of High Representative (EU foreign affairs chief Catherine) Ashton, the next Foreign Affairs Council will take place on 23 January,” one week ahead of an EU summit on January 30 where the foreign ministers had been due to meet, the EU said in a brief text.

EU diplomats meanwhile were locked in talks Tuesday on new sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector, notably how to address the plight of economically-distressed European nations dependent on oil imports from Tehran — Italy, Greece and Spain.

Talks are centred on when and how to progressively phase out deliveries of Iranian crude.

Iranian oil accounted for 15 percent of Spain’s total oil imports, 14 percent of Greece’s and 13 percent of Italy’s, according to EU statistics for 2010.

The 27-nation bloc is joining the United States in ramping up sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme, which the West believes masks a drive to develop an atomic weapons capability.

The EU is collectively the second-biggest destination for Iranian oil exports after China, taking in some 450,000 barrels per day.