CAIRO (Reuters) - European Union states are putting together a new set of sanctions to increase pressure on Iran to give up its controversial nuclear activity, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Reuters on Tuesday.
“We are working on those sanctions ... quite urgently and I hope we will be able to discuss them further when we meet again in the middle of October,” he said in an interview at the British embassy in Cairo.
Hague said a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Cyprus on Friday had shown “a very strong level of support for further sanctions”.
He did not specify what new steps the EU could add to measures that already include a ban on Iranian oil imports.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday again raised the prospect of Israeli military strikes on Iran over its nuclear ambitions, saying the United States had forfeited any moral right to stop Israel acting because it had refused to be firm with Tehran itself.
The West accuses Iran of seeking to building nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Asked about Netanyahu’s comments, Hague said: “We have given clear advice to Israel, we give that in public and in private; we are opposed to an attack on Iran in these circumstances.”
Hague described sanctions as “better than any other approach that is available to us” but repeated Britain’s standard line that no option had been taken off the table.
Hague also said Iran’s presence in a quartet of regional states brought together by Egypt to try to resolve the Syrian crisis would make it “very difficult” for the group to agree on action to end the conflict.
“We are skeptical that Iran would agree to anything that would be a reasonable way forward in Syria,” he said. “I think probably in Egypt people are realistic about that.”
Cairo hosted the inaugural meeting on Monday of the quartet, which groups Iran, a staunch ally of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, with Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which have all demanded that he step down in the face of a popular uprising.
He also repeated that military intervention over Syria had not been ruled out, although any tough U.N. Security Council action against Syria has been blocked by Russia and China.
“We are putting the maximum pressure on the regime, the EU sanctions are very strong, we look to Arab countries to intensify their sanctions and their pressure on the regime,” he added.
The Arab League, headquartered in Cairo, has suspended Syria and called for members to impose financial and other sanctions on Damascus.
Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Kevin Liffey