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Iran oil embargo: How tough are the EU sanctions?

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Iran is allowed to enrich uranium as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But the United Nations Security Council has forbid that enrichment until Iran clears up remaining concerns raised by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said EU nations no longer believe Iran’s assertion that its program is for civilian use, and said that sanctions are an alternative to military action.

According to OPEC figures, the EU took 890,000 barrels per day from Iran in 2010. Making up for this shortfall will be a challenge. Currently, Saudi Arabia produces roughly 10 million barrels per day, but says its maximum capacity is 12.5 million barrels.

“Whether they can reach this figure is unclear,” says Mr. Stevens, author of a recent Chatham House study, “An Embargo on Iranian Crude Oil Exports: How Likely and with What Impact?”

The sanctions mean no new contracts will be signed with Iran, and that existing contracts must cease by July 1. Yet with a May 1 review to examine the effect of sanctions on EU economies, particularly beleaguered Greece, which takes 30 percent of its oil from Iran, there is what Stevens terms “wiggle room.”

Slow buildup to sanctions

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