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Gates gets European support on Iran sanction

2010-02-10 08:45 BJT

PARIS, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- After the last stop in Paris, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up his European tour on Tuesday with widespread support from European alliance on sanctions against Iran, in the hope that concrete punishment can stop Iran from moving closer to military nuclear programs.

During Gates' meeting with his French counterpart Herve Morin on Monday, the two nations' common position on Iran nuclear issue was a highlighted part besides other major topics such as France's sale of advanced warship Mistral to Russia, Afghan security issue, and competition and cooperation between European and U.S. plane makers.

Gates said sanctions were the only way to check Iran's military nuclear programs. "The only path that is left to us at this point...is that pressure track, it will require all of the international community to work together," he said.

Morin, on his part, said joint action would be the next step.

"It'll be necessary, unfortunately, to engage an international dialogue which will lead to new sanctions if Iran doesn't halt its nuclear programs," the French defense chief said, promising to work together with the United States on new sanctions.

Almost at the same time, Iran reportedly informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about its plan to produce 20 percent enriched uranium starting from Tuesday.

The Iranian move apparently ignored a draft deal brokered by the IAEA stipulating that most of Iran's existing low-grade enriched uranium should be shipped to Russia and France to be processed into fuel rods with 20 percent purity and the higher-level enriched uranium will then be transported back to Iran.

However, Iranian official defended that the plan did not contradict the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), provoking more concerns and fresh warnings from the West.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said Iran's latest announcement "may affect ongoing international efforts to ensure the availability of nuclear fuel for the Tehran research reactor".

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he didn't believe Iran had the ability to raise the enrichment level of its uranium, calling the decision a "blackmail".

Yet, he voiced support to the U.S. proposal, saying "we can't apply other choice but only sanction, given the negotiation is impossible".

Kouchner said all major European powers were in favor of a fourth-round of U.N.-backed sanction.