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EU ready to act on Iran satellite jamming - draft

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union plans to take action against Iran for its jamming of European satellite broadcasts, according to a draft statement by EU foreign ministers ahead of a meeting on Monday.

The statement, obtained by Reuters, follows talks among EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France on the jamming of programmes broadcast to Iran by the BBC, Deutsche Welle and other media.

“The EU calls on the Iranian authorities to stop the jamming of satellite broadcasting and Internet censorship and to put an end to this electronic interference immediately,” the statement prepared for Monday’s meeting in Brussels says.

“The EU is determined to pursue these issues and to act with a view to put an end to this unacceptable situation.”

It is not clear what measures the EU could take, but French newspaper Le Figaro reported this week it could involve blocking the export of equipment made by companies such as Siemens and Nokia that makes it possible to intercept email and mobile phone conversations.

It could also involve Eutelsat, a French satellite operator that has been widely affected by Iran’s jamming, blocking the transmission of Iranian broadcasts abroad, including those of Press TV in Britain, Le Figaro said.

The move comes as Britain, France, Germany and the United States are trying to secure Russian and Chinese backing for a U.N. Security Council resolution on further sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme.

EU foreign ministers have said that if a U.N. resolution is not possible, the European Union is ready to push ahead with autonomous sanctions against Iran, alongside the United States.

Iran began jamming foreign satellite transmissions in December 2009 and escalated it ahead of the anniversary of the 1979 revolution on Feb. 11 when nearly 70 foreign radio and television programmes transmitted via Eutelsat were interrupted.

In their statement, EU foreign ministers draw attention to the fact Iran has signed up to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) rules on broadcasting freedom and urge the Islamic republic to meet its international obligations.

“Despite complaints made to the Iranian authorities through the ITU, they have not taken the steps required to put an end to this jamming, which originates on their national territory,” the draft says.

“The EU stresses that freedom of expression is a universal right which includes the right of individuals to seek, receive and impart information regardless of frontiers.”