EU Powers Face Resistance to New Iran Sanctions

EU Powers Face Resistance to New Iran SanctionsEU Powers Face Resistance to New Iran Sanctions

France, Britain and Germany are struggling to persuade their EU partners to back new sanctions on Iran to preserve its nuclear deal, diplomats said, with Italy doubting whether the measures can stop the United States pulling out in May.

At a closed-door meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on March 28, London, Paris and Berlin sought EU support for formal approval of the new sanctions in April, after proposing them in mid-March, according to a document seen by Reuters. But Italy, with support from Spain and Austria, resisted plans to impose travel bans and asset freezes on around 15 Iranians, companies and groups, linked to Iran's ballistic missile program and role in Syria's war. Rome said they would not be enough to persuade US President Donald Trump not to withdraw from the nuclear deal and would endanger burgeoning business ties with Iran. Spain was also wary of the knock-on effects. Under EU rules, economic sanctions need unanimous support.

"Italy said dialogue was the preferred option and that sanctions could weaken our position while not convincing the United States," the diplomat said. "Spain asked the three to consider the implications of such a move."

Trump has given the European signatories a May 12 deadline to "fix the terrible flaws" of the 2015 nuclear accord or he will refuse to extend a suspension of US sanctions on Iran. Trump's choices in recent weeks of two officials publicly opposed to the Iran accord, John Bolton as national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, has dramatically raised the probability of a US pullout, the diplomats said. Discussions are expected to continue in early April but at a lower level than ambassadors, to try for a compromise at EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on April 16, the last formal gathering on the EU agenda before Trump's May deadline.


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