UPDATE 1-Australia to follow EU lead on Iran sanctions
(Adds Rudd, Hague comments)
LONDON Jan 24 (Reuters) - Australia will follow the European Union's lead in banning oil imports and imposing a range of other sanctions on Iran, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said on Tuesday.
Rudd said later that Australian imports of Iranian oil were already "negligible".
"On the question of Iran, let me be absolutely clear (regarding) the actions taken in Brussels yesterday on sanctions by the European Union -- we in Australia will undertake precisely the same parallel action for Australia," he told reporters during a visit to London.
On Monday, the EU imposed a ban on Iranian oil imports from July in an effort to increase pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme. The EU accounts for about about 20 percent of Iranian oil exports.
EU governments also agreed to freeze the assets of Iran's central bank and to ban all trade in diamonds, gold and other precious metals with the bank and other public bodies.
Rudd said a message needed to be sent to the Iranian government that its behaviour was "globally unacceptable".
He said Australian exports to Iran had "declined massively" because of previous rounds of sanctions.
"So this is not a piece of idle philanthropy on the part of Australian foreign policy. This costs, but it is a cost worth paying," he told a news conference after talks between the British and Australian defence and foreign ministers.
EU government, trying to protect Europe's economy as it battles to overcome a debt crisis, agreed on Monday to phase in the oil embargo, giving countries with existing contracts with Iran until July 1 to end those deals.
British Foreign Secretray William Hague told the news conference Britain and other countries would help Greece if it had problems obtaining the oil it needed once the ban on Iranian imports had taken effect.
He said Britain would have preferred a faster timetable for introducing the oil ban but had agreed to the five-month phase-in period partly to help Greece.
"If Greece has further difficulties after that with the purchase of the necessary quantities of oil, of course we and other countries will stand ready to help," he said.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Tim Pearce)
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