The European Union says the nuclear standoff with Iran could end up before the United Nations Security Council, if Tehran continues uranium enrichment. The issue arose at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Britain Thursday.
EU officials say time is running out for Iran to suspend its nuclear program as momentum builds to refer the dispute to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said his counterparts meeting in Wales express their regret that Iran has rejected economic and political incentives in exchange for giving up enrichment of uranium that could be used to make an atomic weapon.
"All member states express deep concern at Iran's resumption of uranium conversion, which is in violation of successive IAEA resolutions," he said. "The European Union very much hopes that Iran will reconsider its position."
He said Iran is undermining confidence, and that the International Atomic Energy Agency could refer the matter to the Security Council later this month, if there is no response from Tehran.
Iranian officials say their nuclear program is solely for peaceful civilian power needs, and they have vowed not to give it up.
Another issue on the EU agenda is the opening of negotiations with Turkey on Ankara's membership in the 25-nation bloc, talks that are due to begin on October 3.
Mr. Straw says he is reasonably sure the negotiations will begin on time, despite Turkey's refusal to recognize the government in Cyprus, which joined the EU last year. He does not rule out another EU foreign ministers' meeting toward the end of September, if the deadlock is not broken.
In a separate development, the EU ministers extended their condolences to Iraq, over the stampede said to have killed hundreds on Wednesday, and to the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Mr. Straw said the EU stands ready to help the United States, if necessary.
"The United States is a country of enormous resources, and is able to come to the aid of those stricken," he said. "But we wanted to make it clear that the European Union and its member states have offered to help the United States, and the communities of the region affected, with any assistance that might be required in what is, perhaps, its greatest civil emergency ever."
Mr. Straw said the EU recognizes that these are, in his words, difficult and painful days for the victims of the storm.