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Further action' threatened if Iran continues nuclear enrichment

AFP | May 03, 2007 

The United Nations Security Council will need to take "further action" if Iran fails to meet demands to suspend its nuclear programme, a British Foreign Office spokesman said on Wednesday following six-nation talks in London.
According to a statement released by the Foreign Office following the talks between officials from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany, there was "strong agreement on the way ahead."

Iran's controversial uranium enrichment programme has sparked fears that it is seeking to build atomic weapons. Iran insists the programme is peaceful, but has been slapped with sanctions over its refusal to suspend it.

"There was strong agreement on the way ahead, reflecting our shared concerns about Iran's non-compliance with IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Board and Security Council requirements and our common interest in a negotiated solution," the spokesman said.

"All reiterated their strong support for (European Union foreign policy chief) Javier Solana's continued dialogue with (Iran's top nuclear negotiator) Ali Larijani, reflecting our clear preference for a negotiated solution.

"All agreed that if Iran failed to meet international requirements the Security Council would need to take further action."

Earlier, senior US official Nicholas Burns said Iran must enter negotiations over its nuclear programme or face increasing international isolation.

"We have a choice of confrontation or diplomacy; we prefer diplomacy," said Burns, the US under secretary of state for political affairs.

Burns, the State Department number three, made his remarks in a speech on US-Iranian relations at Chatham House, the London-based international affairs think-tank.

"The six of us have been meeting now for the better part of a year and a half and we have been aligned in putting forward the diplomatic overture to the Iranian people and government which is on the table now," he said.

"We're waiting for an answer. We prefer a path of peaceful negotiations because that is surely the best way forward, and here's the way forward, and here's our offer and we'd like you to accept it.

"But if you cannot accept it, there's another path called sanctions and international economic and political pressure."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is flying to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt for a two-day conference on Iraq due to begin Thursday.

She has indicated that she would be prepared to talk about Tehran's nuclear ambitions with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in what would be the highest-level official contact between the two foes since the United States cut relations in 1980.

Solana has called for the United States to open a "channel of communication" with Iran on all subjects.

Burns added that the United States had been careful not to take any options off the table -- including military options -- in the Iran stand-off.

"How do we move forward to negotiations? All of us are a little bit puzzled that the Iranians have not taken a single offer of negotiations over the last 18 months," said Burns.

"We don't know that progress is inevitable, but we also don't think that conflict is inevitable. Surely it's better for us to take the time now to see diplomacy play out."

Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Iran after militant students seized its embassy in Tehran following the 1979 Islamic revolution and held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

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