EU expected to increase sanctions on Iran, Syria

December 1, 2011 - 5:30 AM
Belgium EU Foreign Ministers

Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, left, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, center, listen to Spain's Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez prior to the start of an EU foreign ministers meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. The British foreign minister is accusing Iran's government of supporting repression in Syria as EU foreign ministers are expected to impose more sanctions on both countries. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Britain's top diplomat accused Iran's government Thursday of supporting repression in Syria, as European Union foreign ministers discussed imposing more sanctions on both countries.

Mobs stormed the British Embassy in Tehran, the Iranian capital, for hours Tuesday, prompting Britain to pull its diplomats out of the country. Germany, France and the Netherlands have recalled their ambassadors in solidarity.

"There is a link between what is happening in Iran and what is happening in Syria," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on his way into the meeting in Brussels.

He said Iran has aided Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, which the United Nations estimates has killed at least 3,500 anti-government protesters since March.

The EU has already imposed sanctions on people or businesses in both countries. Those relating to Syria are aimed at stopping Assad's crackdown. Nabil Elaraby, the head of the Arab League, which has also imposed financial sanctions on Syria, will join the EU foreign ministers for their discussion of the situation there

The EU sanctions relating to Iran are largely aimed at making the country give up any efforts to develop nuclear weapons — efforts Iran denies it is making.

New sanctions targeting individuals or entities in both countries are widely expected Thursday. But the foreign ministers appeared split over whether to impose an embargo on Iranian oil.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said sanctions against Iran's energy sector could cut the financing available for the country's nuclear program. But Hague, asked about sanctions on Iran's oil exports, turned the question aside and replied that his focus was on the financial sector.

"I am sure we will agree on a range of measures," Hague said.

Also on the foreign ministers' agenda is the situation in Camp Ashraf, an enclave in eastern Iraq that houses more than 3,000 people, many of whom are dedicated to overthrowing the government of Iran.

Iraq, whose government has close ties with that of Iran, has said Camp Ashraf must be closed by the end of this year. Struan Stevenson, a prominent member of the European Parliament said Wednesday that the government of Iraq is "continuously working on its plan to attack Ashraf and massacre the residents."

The U.N. says at least 34 people were killed when Iraqi security forces raided the camp in April.

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Don Melvin can be reached at http://twitter.com/Don_Melvin