U.K. to Back Severe Iran Sanctions in Wake of Embassy Attack

Foreign Secretary William Hague says measure prompted by Iran's nuclear program, not by a recent raid of protesters on the British embassy in Tehran.

Britain will call for stronger economic sanctions on Iran at a meeting of European
Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Thursday following the storming of its embassy in Tehran, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday.

Hague's comments came after British diplomatic sources indicated on Wednesday that the U.K. will support an embargo on Iranian oil imports following the deterioration of relations between the two countries.

David Cameron and William Hague - AP - 18.3

Speaking to BBC radio from Brussels on Thursday, Hague said that he "will be advocating an intensification of economic sanctions on Iran, particularly to increase the isolation of the Iranian financial sector."

"I stress that the measures I hope we will agree today are related to the Iranian nuclear program, these are not measures in reaction to what has happened to our embassy," he added.

Britain shut Iran's embassy in London and expelled its entire staff on Wednesday, saying the storming of the British mission in Tehran on Tuesday could not have taken place without consent from Iranian authorities.

"Our bigger, long-term concern is the Iranian nuclear program, the danger that poses to the peace of the Middle East and the wider world ... and it is for that reason that we will agree, I hope, today to intensify European Union sanctions on Iran," Hague said.

EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels later on Thursday to map out Europe's response to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent weeks that suggested Iran has worked on designing an atom bomb.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has recalled the country's ambassador to Iran, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin announced Wednesday

France recalled its ambassador to Tehran for "consultations" on Wednesday as well. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement that the ambassador, Bruno Foucher, had been recalled over Iran's "flagrant and unacceptable" violation of the Vienna Convention.

Moreover, Italy's foreign minister also announced Wednesday that his country is considering closing its embassy in Tehran.

The attacks followed the rapid approval by Iran's Guardian Council of a parliamentary bill compelling the government to expel the British ambassador in retaliation for the sanctions, and warnings from a lawmaker that angry Iranians could storm the British embassy as they did to the U.S. mission in 1979.

The top U.S. military officer told Reuters on Wednesday he did not know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take military action against Iran.

General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also acknowledged differences in perspective between the United States and Israel over the best way to handle Iran and its nuclear program.