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Jacob Ehrbahn
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The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Denmark's Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal in Copenhagen.

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Ashton – no talk now of Iran military action

In one of her rare interviews, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton says military action against Iran is not on the table – at the moment.

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As the war of words and standoff between Iran and the West increases in the Straits of Hormuz and in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme, the EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton says that a military solution is not currently on the cards.

“No-one is talking about a military operation at the moment,” Ashton says in one of her rare interviews at a time when the United States and European Union are increasing sanctions pressure on Iran.

The EU’s ‘Foreign Minister’ Catherine Ashton arrived in Copenhagen Tuesday for meetings with the Danish government, which today officially takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union.

“The goal of the sanctions is to put pressure on the Iranian government so that they understand that they have entered into agreements that they must respect. Our duty is to tell Iran that they must live up to their obligations,” Ashton says, adding that the EU has not set a deadline for negotiations with Iran.

“I have no deadline. But I expect Iran to understand that we will continue with sanctions. The EU’s member countries are currently discussing more sanctions. The world is watching Iran and expects it to show that they are able to move away from the road that so many fear,” Ashton says.

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal, who as foreign minister for the presidency will be partnering Ashton for the next six months, also shies away from discussing a military option.

“The reason we are so active with sanctions is precisely because they are an alternative to the military option. Everyone knows that a military attack will not solve the nuclear problem in Iran,” Søvndal says.

“Quite to the contrary it would delay a solution and would have a lot of consequences in the Middle East and elsewhere which would cause new problems. That is why we are putting pressure on Iran to come back to the negotiating table and accept inspections. That is why we will continue to strengthen sanctions,” the Danish foreign minister adds.

Moves to increase EU sanctions against Iran come following a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency saying that Iran is able to enrich uranium to 20 per cent at its underground nuclear facility at Foro in Qom Province.

Both Ashton and Søvndal say they hope a military conflict can be avoided, but also warn that the time has come for Teheran to show a willingness to negotiate.

“The obvious solution is that Iran takes the political decision that they want nuclear power – that can help them develop – but that they will not develop a weapons programme. Not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the whole region. That is what we are trying to achieve,” Ashton says.

Full interview in tomorrow’s Politiken.

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Edited by Julian Isherwood

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