Italian PM says will oppose EU sanctions against Iran

December 2, 2007

PARIS (Newsmax) - Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said on Friday that he would oppose European Union sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, and favored a dialogue with Tehran’s leaders instead.

In an interview that appeared in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Prodi said he had “no confidence” in European sanctions, and objected that they “would not be shared by other countries.”
Prodi’s unwillingness to go along with European Union efforts to craft stricter economic sanctions on Iran, was a slap in the face to the leaders of France, Britain, and Germany, all of whom have been calling for a unified European approach to pressure Iran into roll backing its uranium-enrichment program.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has expressed reluctance to go for sanctions in the past, changed her tune just before visiting with President George W. Bush at his Texas ranch on Nov. 7.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his foreign minister have repeatedly warned that a failure to apply meaningful economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran could lead to war, and have worked behind the scenes to move the EU in that direction.
“If the sanctions at the moment are not sufficient, then I would like stronger sanctions,” Sarkozy said in September, as the United Nations was contemplating a third UN Security Council resolution to increase economic pressure on Tehran.
Until now, U.S. diplomats have referred to Germany as the “squeaky wheel” among the Western nations in the effort to step up economic sanctions on Iran.
But Italy’s socialist prime minister has become the new bete-noir of Europe.
Ever since he edged out his pro-American predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, in razor-thin elections in April 2006, Prodi has moved Italy further and further from the American orbit, even as his European partners have sought to renew their partnership with the Bush administration.
Prodi completed the withdrawal of Italy’s 3,000 troops from Iraq by the end of 2006, at the same time he began to champion Iran’s “right” to nuclear technology.
In September 2006, his foreign minister, Massimo D’Alena, called Iran’s desire to develop nuclear energy “legitimate.”
That December, Prodi said that he believed Iran’s objective was “not a nuclear bomb, but rather recognition of its leading status in the region.”
Italy had now surpassed Germany as Iran’s biggest trading partner in Europe, he said.
Italy has been a good ally in other areas, such as Afghanistan and Lebanon, where it has sent peacekeeping troops.
But on Iran, it continues to oppose U.S. and European efforts to tighten economic and financial sanctions.
Prodi’s statements to Le Figaro appeared to indicate that his government would not enact the new EU banking regulations on Iran.
Italy is currently one of the ten non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.