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Europe

Europe Mum Over Next Step on Iran

The US says it's working with Europe on a "tough set of resolutions" demanding Iran's compliance on the nuclear issue, but it's not clear whether Europe will abandon its engagement with Iran to follow the US position.

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Rice says the US will "make certain" Europe agrees on Iran

Earlier this week, the United States stepped up its rhetoric against Iran, warning that Tehran would face increasing international pressure if it refused to back down on its nuclear program. White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice warned that the Iranian government would be isolated if it fails to comply with measures to ensure full disclosure and transparency of its nuclear activities.

"Iran is going to be confronted," Rice told the US broadcaster Fox News. She said that a "very tough set of resolutions" demanding Iranian cooperation would be ready for consideration in September, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) next meets to discuss Iran's nuclear program.

The warnings came two days after Iran said it had resumed building nuclear centrifuges, which the US says are intended to make weapons-grade enriched uranium for use in bombs.

No progress in Paris

Last week, diplomats from the European Union's "big three" -- Germany, France and Britain -- held talks in Paris with Iranian officials about the country's nuclear program, and stressed their wish to see a halt to Iran's work on the centrifuges. The talks produced "no substantial progress." Iran denies that it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, and says the centrifuges are being used to meet increasing demand for electricity.

The US wants to refer Iran to the UN Security Council and impose economic sanctions. But asked whether Europe would go along with US plans to increase pressure on Iran, Rice said Washington would "just have to keep working with the French, the British and the Germans to make certain" they follow the US position.

European diplomats have kept quiet on how they intend to proceed. While there's little doubt that European negotiators were frustrated by the lack of progress at last week's talks, Europe has been committed to a process of engagement with Iran, which the EU says has been developing in a "positive direction."

According to reports in the Iranian media, European diplomats in Tehran said they will continue engagement and communication, though there was mention of a "cooling off period," referring to the pause in negotiations on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement between Brussels and Tehran.

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