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EU prepares new Iran sanctions over nuclear activities

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union is preparing a new round of sanctions against Iran after a UN atomic agency report hardened suspicions that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons, diplomats said Thursday.

France and Britain have called for "new powerful sanctions" unless Iran cooperates over its nuclear programme, but the diplomats said the measures would likely not be finalised in time for a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.

EU leaders already paved the way for more sanctions at an October 23 summit when they tasked their foreign ministers with preparing new restrictive measures.

Although the ministers could discuss the sanctions in Brussels on Monday, it would be too soon to adopt new measures, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

The new sanctions could be adopted at their next meeting in Brussels on December 1, a diplomat said. The measures could target the Iranian central bank or the country's vital oil revenues.

"But if the new sanctions are ready before December 1, they can be adopted quicker through other procedures," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The issue was on the agenda of a meeting of experts from the 27-nation EU in Brussels on Thursday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its report Tuesday there was "credible" intelligence suggesting Iran had carried out work towards building nuclear warheads, a claim denied by officials in Tehran.

The UN has imposed a raft of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze sensitive nuclear fuel work. The United States and the European Union have imposed their own sanctions on top of the UN measures.

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