The international community has given Iran a "final opportunity" to meet its nuclear obligations, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.
Straw met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki for more than an hour Wednesday. The pair also met Tuesday at a conference on Afghanistan in London.
"He (Mottaki) really needs to see this agreed position by the leaders of the international community, not as a threat but as an opportunity ... a final opportunity for Iran to put itself back on track," Straw told BBC radio.
"Mottaki was warned not to walk away from the IAEA additional protocol or to make threats," a British Foreign Office spokesman said, referring to demands by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. "This was not in Iran's interest."
Later, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons that it was important to "send a signal of strength" to Iran.
"It is important that they understand ... that we are united in determining that they should not be able to carry on flouting their international obligations," he told MPs.
Meanwhile envoys from China and Russia were in Tehran trying "to make one last effort to reach an agreement" over Iran's nuclear program, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.
Wednesday's moves came after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad angrily rejected international pressure on Iran over its nuclear ambitions as U.S. President George W. Bush vowed to keep it from making an atomic bomb.
On Tuesday, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Russia, China, Britain, France and the United States -- asked the IAEA to report Iran to the full Security Council.
The move was endorsed by Germany and the European Union and comes ahead of an IAEA board meeting Thursday in Vienna. (Full story)
The final text of the resolution, Reuters said, asks the IAEA's governing board to agree at its meeting on Thursday to "convey" to the council key IAEA reports raising doubts about the nature of Iran's nuclear work.
It calls on Iran to restore confidence in its intentions by re-suspending all nuclear-fuel research and uranium enrichment-related work and implementing transparency measures by halting restrictions on access for IAEA investigators, Reuters said.
A top Iranian diplomat Tuesday warned that the recommendation to report Iran to the Security Council would be "the end of the road for diplomacy." (Iran angry)
Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Wednesday his country would stop intrusive U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities if it is taken before the Security Council.
However, he said his country remained committed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty despite calls from hard-line newspapers for Iran to withdraw from the agreement.
Many countries have been concerned that Iran has intended to use its nuclear program to develop weaponry. But Iran says its program is solely for peaceful purposes.
Months of talks with European nations did not make headway in settling the issue, and discussions recently ended. Iran recently broke IAEA seals on its nuclear facilities, raising concerns in the West.
Straw said international pressure on Iran appeared to be having no direct effect on Iran's president, at least "in terms of rhetoric."
Ahmadinejad, addressing a crowd of thousands in the Gulf port city of Bushehr, lost no time in hitting back at Bush's remarks on Iran in his State of the Union address.
"I am telling those fake superpowers that the Iranian nation became independent 27 years ago and ... on the nuclear case it will resist until fully achieving its rights," Reuters quoted him as saying. (Ahmadinejad defiant)
Iran's parliament issued a statement Wednesday reminding the government that, under a law approved last year, it must halt snap U.N. inspections of its atomic facilities and resume uranium enrichment -- a process that can yield bomb-grade material -- if its case is referred to the Security Council.
Bush said the world must act together to prevent Iran joining the list of nuclear-armed nations.
"The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions -- and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons," Bush said in his Tuesday night speech. "America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats." (Full story)
Oil price fear
Meanwhile, deputy foreign ministers from Russia and China headed to Iran on Wednesday to inform it of "the concerns of the international community" about the removal of U.N. seals this month at a uranium enrichment facility, the Russian Itar-Tass news agency reported.
On Tuesday, oil ministers from the OPEC cartel warned that sending Iran's case to the Security Council could cause a spike in already sizzling oil prices. But Iran eased concerns it could use its status as the world's fourth biggest crude oil producer as a weapon in the dispute by curtailing its exports. (Full story)
Also Tuesday, the IAEA said in a confidential report that Iran had already begun preparing for uranium enrichment and continued to hinder the U.N. watchdog's inquiries into its atomic activities. A senior U.S. State Department official gave a briefing on how Tehran had stepped up its preparations to enrich uranium. (Full story)
Four years ago Bush used his State of the Union address to name Iran with North Korea and Iraq as nations that "constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world".
With all sides engaged in high-stakes negotiations, he avoided such language on Tuesday, although he described Iran as "a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people."
Ahmadinejad fired back that Bush himself was a criminal.
"Those whose arms are stained up to the elbow with the blood of other nations are now accusing us of violating human rights and freedoms. God willing, we shall drag you to trial," he said.
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Here comes the next war.