EU leaders tell Iran to negotiate or face more pain

BRUSSELS Fri Oct 19, 2012 9:07am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will further tighten economic sanctions if Iran does not curb its nuclear activities, EU leaders said on Friday, urging Tehran to engage in "meaningful" negotiations.

Europe imposed new sanctions on the Islamic Republic this week, targeting trade, energy and shipping, as part of a Western push to force Iran to make concessions over the nuclear work.

In a statement after a regular two-day summit, EU leaders said Iran was in "flagrant violation" of nuclear non-proliferation rules but that if it moved to comply the sanctions could be lifted.

"The Iranian regime can act responsibly and bring sanctions to an end," they said. "But as long as it does not do so, the EU remains determined to increase, in close coordination with international partners, pressure on Iran."

Western governments hope to restart diplomacy with Iran after the November 6 U.S. election, diplomats say, after the failure of three rounds of talks this year. But they are wary of allowing diplomacy to resume without meaningful results.

A solution is increasingly urgent as Israel, widely seen as the Middle East's only nuclear power, threatens air strikes against Iranian nuclear installations, a move that could spark a new war in the region.

Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says its atomic work is for peaceful purposes only.

Sanctions have made it harder for Iran to sell and transport its oil and have likely contributed to a crash in the currency and soaring inflation, but Tehran has shown no sign of backing down on the nuclear work which it says is its sovereign right.

(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Sebastian Moffett and Robin Pomeroy)

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