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24 January 2012 - 22:43

France, Britain and Germany have indicated their willingness to negotiate with Iran over the country's peaceful nuclear program "if Tehran is ready for serious talks."

The statement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron came on Monday, a few hours after the European Union members imposed sanctions on Iran's Central Bank and an embargo on the country's oil, Reuters reported.

"We call on Iran's leadership immediately to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities and abide fully by its international obligations," the statement added.

The statement claimed that Iran continued to show disregard for its international obligations and was "exporting and threatening violence across the region."

"The door is open to Iran to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations about its nuclear program," it added.

"Until Iran comes to the [negotiation] table, we will be united behind strong measures to undermine… [Iran's] ability to fund its nuclear program," the European leaders said.

Foreign ministers of the European Union imposed sanctions on Iranian oil imports over the country's peaceful nuclear program during their Monday meeting in Brussels.

The recent sanctions involve an immediate ban on all new oil contracts with Iran and a freeze on the assets of Iran's Central Bank within the EU. The EU has also imposed a ban on the sale of gold, diamonds, and other precious metals to Iran.

According to an EU diplomat, the ministers have agreed to delay full implementation of the oil embargo until July 1, in order to protect Europe's economy, which is struggling with a two-year-old debt crisis.

EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, told reporters after the meeting that the sanctions are aimed at pressuring Iran to return to talks over its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the embargo part of "an unprecedented set of sanctions,” and his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, said imposing sanctions was a vital action to be taken to guarantee “security in the world."

Reacting to EU's decision, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected unilateral sanctions against Iran, saying the sanctions would be "unhelpful."

Tehran has warned that the embargo will have negative consequences such as an increase in oil prices.
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