Sanctions against Iran appear a step closer after the US backed EU negotiators in calling for Tehran’s nuclear programme to be referred to the UN Security Council.
Following a meeting in Berlin, representatives of Britain, France and Germany said Iran had failed to show its research activities were peaceful.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeyer said: “Discussions with Iran have reached a dead end.” He added that they were passing the matter on to the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The three EU powers have been holding talks with Iran on the issue for the past two and a half years.
The US has long feared that Iran’s atomic research is a clandestine attempt to develop nuclear weapons.
Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice said: “We agree that the Iranian regime’s defiant resumption of uranium enrichment work leaves the EU with no choice but to request an emergency meeting of the IAEA board of gouvernors. That meeting would be to report Iran’s non-compliance with its safeguard obligations to the UN security council.”
Rice later said US military action against Iran was not on the agenda “at this point”.
Any move to impose sanctions against Tehran would need the support of Russia and China, both permanent members of the Security Council.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has increased pressure on Iran, hinting that it could lose Moscow’s support if it does not resume a moratorium on nuclear research.
The door may still be open for talks. Iran’s chief negotiator is reported to have told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that his country was still interested in dialogue if it did not drag on.