EU to pile pressure on Iran, split on military option

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EU foreign ministers went into talks Monday calling for increased pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear programme but split over talk of military action.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle ruled out any idea of military action once and for all, saying firmly on arrival: "We are not taking part in the discussion on military intervention."

"We believe such discussions are counter-productive and reject them."

But Britain said all options should remain on the table.

Asked to comment on talk of a strike against Iran, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We are not considering that at the moment. We are not calling or advocating military action.

At the same time we say all options should remain in future."

"Of course we will also look over the coming months to increase the peaceful legitimate pressure on Iran as part of our dual track approach of being available for negotiations if they're real negotiations, but at the same time placing more pressure on Iran through sanctions."

The 27 ministers will discuss "strong new restrictive measures" against Iran failing progress in Tehran's cooperation with nuclear watchdog IAEA or in talks with world powers, diplomats told AFP.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the international community needed to take "a very firm" stand by toughening sanctions against Iran "to avoid an irreparable intervention".

Diplomats said a draft statement to be mulled by the ministers states that "Iran is in violation of international regulations".

It goes on to say: "We urge Iran to address international concerns ... Strong new restrictiive measures will be taken at a next meeting taking into account Iran's actions."

© 2011 AFP

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