Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, with International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Yukiya Amano in Tehran yesterday. 18 January 2016. Picture: EPA
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, with International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Yukiya Amano in Tehran on Monday. Picture: EPA

ABU DHABI — The European Union (EU) would discuss this week whether it needed to impose new sanctions on Iran following recent ballistic missile tests, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday, a day after the US announced such measures.

Washington imposed sanctions on 11 companies and individuals on Sunday for supplying Iran’s ballistic missile programme, in a move delayed by more than two weeks so as not to endanger this weekend’s release of US prisoners.

"We have to compare the American system and European system, and to see if there are new sanctions to take or not, and this exercise will be implemented this week," Mr Fabius said during a visit to Abu Dhabi.

Iran had tested a new medium-range ballistic missile on November 21, the second such test since October, in a breach of two United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions, two US officials said yesterday. The US measures come shortly after the lifting of international sanctions over the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.

During talks leading up to the deal that ended those sanctions, France was deemed to hold the toughest stance against Iran.

Mr Fabius, who said he would visit Riyadh today to meet King Salman and other officials, said France would like to de-escalate tensions between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The crisis between the conservative Sunni kingdom and Shiite power Iran, both major oil exporters, escalated when Saudi Arabia executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on January 2, triggering anger among Shiites across the Middle East.

In Iran, protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, prompting Riyadh to sever relations. Tehran cut all commercial ties with Riyadh, and banned its pilgrims from travelling to Mecca. Mr Fabius said it was not yet possible to confirm that a planned UN-organised January 25 peace meeting on Syria would take place involving Damascus and the opposition. It was up to the UN to confirm it.

"Obviously, we hope the negotiations will take place, but there are some questions which have to be answered."

The Syrian opposition council established last month to oversee the negotiations was expected to take its position on the meeting next Monday during a meeting in Riyadh this week, opposition officials said.

George Sabra, a member of the body formed to oversee negotiations, said next Monday as date for the Geneva talks was not a practical one.

"I think a decision should be made in the next three days," he said.

Asked about the biggest obstacles to talks, he said: "Shelling people in cities and shelling by Russian and (Syrian) regime air forces. And a big problem is the sieges — people are dying."