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Europe

West Renews Sanctions Threat in Iran Nuclear Standoff

Iran's refusal to halt nuclear work and respond to a new package of western incentives has led to the US and Britain threatening UN sanctions unless Tehran gives an "unambigious and positive" answer by Tuesday.

Javier Solana, left, speaks with Saeed Jalili, right

The EU's Solana, left, with Iran's nuclear negotiator Jalili

Patience was running out among the six world powers trying to negotiate an end to Iran's nuclear enrichment program on Monday after a phone call between Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana was deemed "not conclusive."

Unless Iran responds "unambigiously and positively" to the latest incentive package by Tuesday, Aug 5, the country will face sanctions, several countries warned on Monday.

Iran was offered a set of trade and economic incentives in mid-July which were aimed at convincing the country to abandon its nuclear ambitions. But Iran missed an informal Saturday deadline to respond to the incentives package.

Patience nearly worn out

Atomsymbol vor iranischer Flagge

Atom symbol over Iran flag

Jalili reportedly promised that Tehran would provide a written response on Tuesday to the incentives package, according to the US State Department. Besides the US, the five other countries involved in negotiations with Iran are Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

Diplomats from the group of six agreed to push for new action against Iran if the country continues to stall, according to US State Department spokesman Gonzago Gallegos.

"We agreed that in the absence of a positive response, we have no choice but to pursue further measures," Gallegos said Monday.

Britain took the same line: "Unless tomorrow's answer is unambiguous and positive, we will have no choice but to proceed with further sanctions measures," a Foreign Office spokesman told Reuters news agency.

France also showed that it is unwilling to wait much longer.

"If we don't get an encouraging response from the Iranians, we will have to show firmness, resort to sanctions as in the past," Jean-Pierre Lacroix, France's deputy ambassador to the UN, told AFP on Monday.

Iran takes different view

Iranian technician in a uranium enrichment facility

Iran has refused to stop its nuclear program

Iran is already living with three sets of sanctions imposed by the United Nations. Tehran has consistently refused to suspend its nuclear activities, which it claims will be used for energy production. Europe and other countries worry that Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons.

A spokesman for Solana confirmed to AFP news agency that the phone call had taken place, but did not mention any promise by Jalili to provide a written response by Tuesday.

Iranian media reported that in the telphone call "both sides agreed to continue talks."

"They also emphasized that preserving this path (talks) needs a positive and constructive atmosphere," the television report said, according to AFP.

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