The European Union (EU) delayed plans Monday to open negotiations for a trade and cooperation pact with Iran.
Officials stated EU foreign ministers were divided over whether to include strong language condemning terrorism and supporting human rights into an eventual agreement.
For his part, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique told reporters following a meeting of EU foreign ministers that an agreement on what type of accord to negotiate would come within weeks.
"There is a clearly stated will and commitment" to reach a deal, said Pique, whose country holds the EU presidency.
Britain, Germany and the Netherlands pushed for making any accord with Iran contingent on respect for human rights, worried about creating a rift with the United States in the fight against terrorism.
France, Greece and Italy argued that would sink a deal and favored a simpler free trade accord, without political conditions, according to AP.
Pique added that any agreement with the Islamic Republic would have to include a clause on respect for democratic values and human rights. The majority of EU treaties include human rights clauses.
"The Iranian authorities must understand we wish to support their reforms," he said, however warned Iran had to show the "appropriate attitude" in fighting terrorism and promoting human rights.
Pique said EU ambassadors would continue to try to find consensus between EU governments on whether to open trade talks with Iran. EU foreign ministers will raise the issue when they meet again in June.
An EU-Iran pact would strengthen trade. EU imports from Iran reached 8 billion euros ($7.3 billion) in the year 2000, mostly oil products, while exports to Iran totaled 5.2 billion euros ($4.8 billion).
In recent years, European oil companies have signed lucrative deals with Iran, which holds 7 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. American companies are prevented from following suit because of U.S. sanctions against Iran. (Albawaba.com)
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