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Major Powers Demand Urgent Action from Iran

EU foreign affairs chief Ashton meets with major powers, says Iran must take urgent action over concerns about its nuclear program.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/28/2012, 11:36 AM

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
AFP/File

Iran must take urgent action to allay mounting international concerns over its nuclear drive, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday after talks among the major powers.

"We discussed at length the need for Iran to take action urgently as we considered the Iranian nuclear issue," AFP quoted Ashton as having told reporters after the talks with the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and United States.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, who engages with Iran on behalf of the international powers, said she updated the foreign ministers on her talks with Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul last week.

"I will from that meeting now be in touch with Iran to continue this process," Ashton added.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP Ashton will discuss "possible next steps" raised by the ministers.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the meeting had been short because the major powers were united in the Iran crisis.

"We agreed that the main word is 'unity,' unity and to exert pressure," Fabius told reporters.

"What is very important is that the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany are completely united on the behavior we have to have toward Iran."

The senior U.S. official also said the international group "is completely united in ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon."

The six nations have pursued a dual track of applying pressure through sanctions while holding talks with Iran's government, which denies that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

UN ambassadors for the United States, Britain and France have warned that time is running out for a negotiated settlement.

"We believe it is necessary for Iran to understand that there are consequences to their not addressing the concerns of the international community. And we believe that it also helps create space for diplomacy which is far away the preferred way to deal with this issue," the U.S. official told AFP.

Earlier this week, diplomats said that Britain, France and Germany have officially called for new European Union sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

The foreign ministers of the three countries wrote to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton calling for tougher measures as the showdown with Iran becomes more tense.

Details of the new measures are still being worked on but EU foreign ministers will discuss the move at a meeting in Brussels on October 15, the diplomats said.

Earlier this month it was reported that EU nations are exploring a new raft of sanctions against Iran.

"We might have to decide soon a new round of sanctions in the European Union," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

He added, “I see a growing consensus between my colleagues. We will not accept a nuclear weapon for Iran.”