West offers talks as EU mulls more sanctions | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 22, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 22, 2012

Iran Crisis

West offers talks as EU mulls more sanctions

Major powers signalled on Friday their willingness to reopen talks about curbing Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons while the European Union sought to impose toughest sanctions to date against Iran.
The focus on diplomacy follows weeks of rising tensions between the West, which is seeking to cut Iran's oil sales, and Tehran, which has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which almost one-fifth of oil traded worldwide flows.
While major powers stressed their openness to renewed talks, diplomats said they remained divided on their approach, notably on whether to let Iran keep enriching uranium at some level.
The group, known as the P5+1 and as the EU3+3, includes Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the group, issued a statement making clear that a diplomatic path remained open to Iran despite tougher sanctions and fresh speculation of a military strike on its nuclear facilities.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton struck a decidedly conciliatory tone at a news conference with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Washington.
"We do not seek conflict. We strongly believe the people of Iran deserve a better future," she said. "They can have that future, the country can be reintegrated into the global community ... when their government definitively turns away from pursuing nuclear weapons.
"We have to see a seriousness and sincerity of purpose coming from them."
In Beijing, China leaned on a visiting Iranian delegation, led by Supreme National Security Council Deputy Secretary Ali Baqeri, to return to nuclear talks, saying it was a "top priority," the Xinhua news agency said yesterday.
Meanwhile, foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc meeting in Brussels on Monday are expected to agree to sanction Tehran's central bank -- and possibly other banks -- and announce an embargo on purchasing Iranian oil, EU officials and diplomats said.
In the build-up, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged "much tougher, more decisive sanctions" as a means of avoiding military action while German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle warned Iran was endangering world peace.

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