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Western Powers Study Extra Iran Sanctions

LONDON -- Britain, France, Germany, and the United States are considering imposing additional sanctions on Iran over its nuclear work, possibly in the energy, reinsurance, or financial sectors, a senior British official has said.

These are beyond measures already taken by the UN Security Council and beyond steps likely to be considered in a possible next round of UN sanctions, the official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said.

"We are at a fairly early stage of this but...there are areas of the Iranian economy that are vulnerable to targeted sanctions -- whether they be in the LNG [liquefied natural gas] sector, investment in the oil and gas sector, imported refined products, reinsurance, other financial areas -- which are areas we would look at if we are looking to increase the pressure on the Iranian leadership," the official said.

He said the countries discussing imposing additional sanctions were Britain, France, the United States, and Germany, and primarily the first three of those countries.

There were "a number of other countries that we would want to involve in those discussions as we go forward," he said, without naming them.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States have been leading diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to freeze nuclear enrichment.

Western powers fear Tehran wants to build an atomic bomb. Iran insists it is only seeking to master nuclear technology to generate electricity.

The United States and Britain said on August 6 the six major powers had agreed to consider more UN sanctions against Iran after Tehran failed to freeze its nuclear activities, but Russia said there was no firm deal.

The UN Security Council has previously passed three sanctions resolutions against Iran.

However, the British official said he had "no illusions that it will be difficult, as it was last time, to actually agree the text of some tough sanctions in the Security Council."

Middle East experts predict negotiations on a new sanctions resolution will be lengthy as veto-wielding council members Russia and China seek to balance their growing frustration with Iran with major commercial interests in the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

Iran's oil and gas industries are seen as off-limits for UN sanctions. International tension over Iran's nuclear program has been one factor that drove up U.S. oil prices to a record $147 a barrel in July.

Iran gave a noncommittal, one-page letter this week to the six powers containing no reply to their offer to refrain from seeking more UN penalties if Iran froze expansion of its nuclear work.

Iran promised a "clear response" at an unspecified date.