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. Europeans seek talks with Iran, US cautious on support for sanctions
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) Sep 15, 2005
Three European powers sought talks with Iran on the sidelines of the world summit here as Washington signaled Wednesday it needed more time to enlist support for possible UN sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.

European diplomatic sources said that the EU-3 - France, Germany and Britain - were seeking to arrange a meeting Thursday to discuss Tehran's suspected weapons-related nuclear activities.

If confirmed, the meeting might take place at foreign minister level, the sources said.

"France is open to dialogue and a contact is possible if the Iranians want it," said a French diplomat on condition of anonymity, adding there was no confirmation at this stage.

Another European diplomat said he was hopeful the meeting would take place.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin "strongly" called for Iran to keep its nuclear non-proliferation promises or face action before the Security Council.

As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran insists it is allowed to make nuclear fuel, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a swipe at UN members who felt their wealth and power gave them "extended rights" not accorded to other countries.

And as Washington lobbied China, India, Russia and other countries to back referral of Iran to the UN Security Council for resuming sensitive nuclear activities, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled Washington may not have the votes at a key meeting next week.

Rice was cautious on prospects for seeking UN action against the Iranians when the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, meets in Vienna on Monday.

"If we get a referral (of Iran) on September 19th, that will be good, but I think the issue of a referral is something that we'll be working for a while," she told the editorial board of Fox News television.

"I'm not so concerned about exactly when it happens because I don't think this matter is so urgent that it has to be on September 19th," she said. "This is more about a political message to Iran right now than anything else."

The Americans have tried to step up pressure on Iran since August when Tehran broke off talks with Britain, Germany and France and resumed work on uranium conversion that could herald efforts to build a bomb.

Rice said she saw no resistance from the Europeans to taking the issue to the UN Security Council. "The question is how much support can you bring that is non-European support. That's really more the issue," she said.

The Iranians rejected a package of economic and security incentives offered by the Europeans if the Islamic Republic would renounce any nuclear arms ambitions.

But Rice said, "I still think that there is a quite a bit of room and scope to put enough pressure on Iran diplomatically to at least constrain Iranian activities significantly."

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has urged the United States to give Iran one last chance to halt suspected weapons-related nuclear activities, diplomats in Vienna said Wednesday.

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