International hopes that a visit by Syria’s President to Tehran could ease the West’s nuclear stand-off with Iran seem all but dashed.
Bashar al-Assad’s visit coincided with the end of an informal deadline for Iran to freeze its atomic research.
But his Iranian counterpart insisted Tehran would not retreat one iota from its nuclear ambitions.
Iran’s refusal to halt the work has drawn three rounds of sanctions since 2006.
But in Brussels, a European Union official said the bloc was prepared to wait a few days for a reply from Tehran. And diplomats said new UN sanctions are unlikely before September.
Tension rose this week after Iran revealed it had thousands of centrifuges working to enrich uranium, and Israel claimed Tehran was just months away from building nuclear weapons. Israel has hinted it is ready to attack Iran’s nuclear sites.
Tehran insists its nuclear programme is purely peaceful. Despite being the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, it still needs other sources to fill its domestic energy needs. The West believes it is simply living up to its Washington-designated pariah status.