EU Pushes Back Against Iranian, Russian Criticism of New Sanctions

Iran's foreign minister said new restrictive measures over nuclear program will be 'ineffective'; Russia's FM says IRan, Syria sanctions hurting Russian economy.

European Union foreign ministers on Saturday defended their intention to further tighten sanctions onI ran over its nuclear program, following criticism from Tehran and Moscow.

The new restrictive measures will be "ineffective," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi told the ISNA news agency, contending that Tehran has "never missed any diplomatic occasion forsettling the nuclear dispute."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, complained that sanctions on both Iran and Syria were hurting his country's economic interests, as he criticized US restrictive measures on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok.

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told reporters after meeting his EU counterparts in Cyprus: "The question is not of economic interests. The question is about the security of our citizens ... in face of the potential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran."

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said: "If Mr Lavrov wants to avoid sanctions, it would be easier to participate in a political consensus in the United Nations Security Council. We would make progress more quickly."

Russia and China have steadfastly blocked action against Syria by the UN Security Council.

"When you have 100-200 deaths per day, you can't say: 'Ah yes, but it's a question of economic interest'," French Foreign MinisterLaurent Fabius said. "When there is a crisis ... that threatens all countries in the region and beyond, you must go to the next speed."

The situation with Iran also raises threats stretching well beyond its borders, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle noted, sayingthat Tehran acquiring the nuclear bomb would likely lead to a new global weapons race.

And yet, the two sides have failed to achieve any breakthrough in almost 10 years, with Iran insisting that its nuclear program is ofa peaceful nature.

"The gulf of mistrust between the West and Iran is extremely deep," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.