(Updates with comment from analyst in third paragraph.)
Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Italy said participants in talks in Rome on stiffening sanctions on Iran called on the nation to answer questions about its nuclear program and vowed to step up pressure against the world’s No. 3 crude exporter.
Participants in what was described as a meeting of “like- minded nations” asked Iran “to satisfy requests by the international community for immediate clarification on the nuclear program,” the Italian Foreign Ministry said today in an e-mailed statement.
“It’s an important meeting, but a preparatory one,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at New York-based research company Eurasia Group. Its purpose is “to prepare for an EU embargo of Iranian oil, which will probably be announced in January.”
European Union foreign ministers are scheduled to meet next month to discuss possible sanctions on Iranian oil. The U.S. approved new restrictions on the country’s oil industry and banking system on Nov. 21 in an attempt to deter buyers of Iranian crude and thwart its nuclear program.
Iran’s oil exports last year were exceeded only by Saudi Arabia and Russia. The country, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, pumped 3.6 million barrels a day last month, a Bloomberg survey showed, and exported an average 2.58 million barrels a day in 2010, according to OPEC.
Today’s meeting is part of regular consultations aimed at broadening sanctions against Iran, the Italian foreign ministry said in the statement. The participants said they would continue to “work together to step up pressure on Iran with the aim of restarting talks.”
--With assistance from Grant Smith in London. Editors: Alex Devine, Tina Davis
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