EU decision on Iran embargo could be by month-end: France
A decision on a European embargo on Iranian oil could be taken at an EU foreign ministers' meeting on January 30 in Lisbon, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday.
"It's at this occasion I hope that we can adopt this embargo on Iranian oil exports. We are working on this and things are on track," he said, addressing a press conference with Portuguese counterpart Paolo Portas.
"We have to reassure some of our European partners who purchase Iranian oil. We have to provide them with alternative solutions. But these alternative solutions exist and I think we can attain the objective by the end of January," he said.
A European diplomat in Brussels earlier told AFP: "There is an agreement in principle to forge ahead" with the embargo, but added "there is still a lot of work" to agree on the timing of its implementation ahead of the January 30 meeting.
The EU had been divided over whether to impose an Iranian oil ban, but a breakthrough was reached late December after Greece, Spain and other nations that import Iran's crude lifted their objections, another diplomat said.
Britain and France have pushed for an embargo to punish Iran over its controversial nuclear programme, which Western powers say is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Tehran rejects the charges.
EU governments are now negotiating when the embargo should come into force, the diplomats said.
Oil from Iran in 2010 amounted to 5.8 percent of total EU imports, making Tehran the bloc's fifth-largest supplier after Russia, Norway, Libya and Saudi Arabia.
Spain represents 14.6 percent of Iranian oil imports to Europe, Greece 14.0 and Italy 13.1 percent.
© 2012 AFP