EU foreign ministers are preparing to meet in Brussels where a potential oil embargo against Iran targeting its nuclear program is expected to top the agenda.
CCTV correspondent in Brussels Jack Barton reports that while the embargo appears to have been agreed to in-principle, deep divisions remain in Europe over the move - which could strain the already troubled economies of countries like Greece and Italy.
The European Council in Brussels where foreign affairs ministers from the EU’s 27 member states are gathering to discuss a potential oil embargo on Iran along with possible sanctions against individual members of the government and institutions linked to Teheran’s financial sector.
Europe is the second largest customer for Iranian oil so the embargo would no doubt be a blow to Iran.
The problem is in the midst of an economic crisis the embargo would also be a major setback to many already troubled European economies.
"There’s a discussion about whether there should be a delay. There’s also a discussion about what kind of sanction one would use. Would the sanctions affect oil contracts or also futures contracts? So there are creative debates taking place on how to cushion the consequences of the sanctions on Iran for the countries that are already facing major problems, major economic problems."
The EU’s representative on foreign affairs Catherine Ashton admits the potential economic impact is being closely examined and insists an embargo would not mean the EU had closed the door to further talks with Iran.
"We are dealing with the issues of supply for the European Union and making sure we have the detail of this in place. But can I say that as the person responsible for the talks with Iran that it is always my ambition that we will be able to engage with Iran on talks on the nuclear program."
Talks between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany stalled a year ago, having failed to even agree on an agenda.
Tehran denies wanting nuclear weapons, saying its
enrichment work is for energy and medical applications.
"The EU’s proposed embargo follows sanctions by the US last month aimed at financial institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank. In response to all of this Iran has threatened to close the Straight of Hormuz through which 35 percent of the world’s shipped crude oil passes."
Energy analysts warn that such a blockade could temporarily push the price of oil up to around 200 dollars a barrel.
Amidst the growing war of words EU foreign ministers are expected to approve a phased ban on imports of Iranian oil at the meeting.
But a full embargo could be delayed for months to let countries like Greece, Spain and Italy find alternative supplies desperately needed to get their own battered economies back on track.