British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Photo: Mike Hutchings

Paphos, Cyprus -

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the European Union on Friday to step up the pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear drive by beefing up sanctions.

“It is necessary to increase the pressure on Iran, to intensify sanctions,” Hague said in reference to Iran, as he joined his 26 EU colleagues for two days of informal talks in Cyprus expected also to focus on the conflict in Syria.

Ministers will be briefed during the two-day meeting on the state of play of months of negotiations with Iran led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on behalf of the major powers.

Ashton had been expected to hold a new round of talks around the end of August with Iran's lead nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Britain wants EU governments to agree a new round of sanctions - targeting the energy sector and trade - at the next meeting of EU foreign ministers in mid-October, a diplomatic source said.

The so-called P5+1 group made up of the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany has told Iran to immediately stop enriching uranium to 20 percent level, to ship out its existing 20 percent stocks and to shut down a fortified underground enrichment facility.

Analysts say enrichment to 20 percent is a key step towards the 90 percent level required for a nuclear warhead.

Iran insists it has a right to uranium enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and wants Western sanctions on its economy eased. - Sapa-AFP