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Major Powers Give Iran New deadline


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THE major powers had given Iran a new deadline of early October to suspend uranium enrichment and begin negotiations on a package of rewards for stepping back from a nuclear showdown, a senior European diplomat said today.


The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and Italy agreed at a meeting overnight to give European negotiators more time to convince Iran to give up its enrichment program before seeking sanctions against Tehran as called for under a UN resolution.


But the meeting set a deadline of early October for success in the negotiations between European foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani, the diplomat said.

Speaking today, French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States - agreed that Iran must respond rapidly.


"We must have a response fairly quickly," he said.

"It's becoming urgent."

At yesterday's meeting, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed away from the long-standing US position that Iran should face sanctions immediately for failing to meet an August 31 UN deadline for suspending its uranium enrichment.


She agreed to permit a new round of negotiations between Mr Solana and Mr Larijani in the hope of convincing Tehran to meet the UN demand, US officials said.

If Iran suspends its enrichment, which Washington and others believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, Ms Rice said she would personally attend the launch of direct negotiations with Tehran aimed at rewarding the Islamic republic for winding down its nuclear program.


But Washington also got its partners to agree to the new deadline for imposing sanctions if Iran stands firm, according to senior US and European officials who were present at the meeting.


The US officials declined to reveal the new deadline, but the European diplomat said Solana would be given until the first week of October to achieve results in his talks with Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani.

Mr Douste-Blazy said yesterday's meeting had agreed on the need to give Iran one more chance to reach a negotiated settlement.


"We all thought that we had to avoid confrontation and do everything possible to pursue a dialogue ... while also avoiding a situation where the Iranians, through meeting after meeting, are able to play for time and we end up with a fait accompli" of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, he said.

Mr Douste-Blazy was due to meet Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki later today on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, a diplomat said.


At the same time, chances of a quick breakthrough in the standoff dimmed with the announcement that Mr Larijani would not meet with Mr Solana in New York this week as expected.

Instead, Mr Larijani and Mr Solana agreed in a telephone conversation to hold talks next week in an unidentified European capital, the official Iranian news agency reported in Tehran.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior officials from the United States and major powers will meet in London on Friday to establish the next steps against Iran over its refusal to give up uranium enrichment, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.


State Department spokesman Tom Casey said U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns would join political directors from France, Russia, China, Britain and Germany to discuss what action to take since Iran shunned an August 31 U.N. deadline to give up enrichment or face sanctions.


"What we expect the political directors will do is take account and take stock of the situation and review where this process is and what our next steps might be," Casey said.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been expected to meet her counterparts in London on Friday but that meeting has not been scheduled, indicating the timing was not right because differences still exist over sanctions.



But Casey said there were "scheduling issues" and it was not because of differences.


"I wouldn't read anything more into it than that," he told reporters.


Rice was in Baghdad on Thursday.


Casey reiterated the U.S. view that talks between Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana were "drawing to an end" and the next step was agreeing on U.N. sanctions against Iran.


Iran again urged the West on Thursday to resolve the standoff through talks but repeated it would not shelve its enrichment program. Iran says the program is only for power generation but the West suspects it wants to make a bomb.


While the United States is lobbying hard for sanctions, Russia and China have opposed this route and even some European allies say diplomacy must be given longer before sanctions are imposed.


At the United Nations, Britain's U.N. ambassador said he expected the U.N. Security Council to begin discussing a resolution next week that could impose sanctions on Iran.


"I expect the Iranian dossier to re-emerge in New York in the course of next week," Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters.


He said Britain "will be discussing with its partners and with members of the council the basis for action by the council to adopt measures under Article 41 against Iran," referring to a provision in the U.N. Charter that allows the council to impose nonmilitary punitive measures.



(Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)

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