Foreign ministers of the leading industrial powers and Russia discussed nuclear non-proliferation and Iran Tuesday at a meeting near the Canadian capital, Ottawa. The ministers, preparing for the annual G8 summit in Canada in late June, are urging "strong steps" to curb Iran's nuclear program.
The meeting, in a Quebec suburb of Ottawa, precedes a likely U.S.-led push in the U.N. Security Council - as early as April - for a new sanctions resolution against Iran over its nuclear program.
Language from the foreign ministers' final communiqué, made available to reporters, endorsed "appropriate and strong steps" to show resolve in the face of Iranian nuclear efforts, while leaving the door open to dialogue with Tehran.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, opening Tuesday's G8 plenary session, said those steps include a fourth round of U.N. sanctions if necessary.
"We urge a heightened focus and a stronger coordinated action including sanctions if necessary on the Iranian regime. Tehran must halt its nuclear enrichment activities and engage in peaceful dialogue. There is much at stake. If nuclear proliferation leads to the use of nuclear weapons, whether by states or non-state actors, then no matter where the bombs are set off, the catastrophe will be felt around the world," Mr. Harper said.
The United States and key allies believe Iran's nuclear program is weapons related despite Tehran's assertions of peaceful intent.
The Canadian prime minister, expressing condolences to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Monday's suicide bombings in the Moscow subway system, said the attack is an "unwelcome reminder" of the common threat posed by terrorism, and makes the danger posed by nuclear proliferation seem even more pressing.
Harper said both Iran and North Korea are in violation of international nuclear obligations and are "serious threats" to global security. He urged Pyongyang to return to the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks on its nuclear program without preconditions.
The G8 grouping includes all the veto-wielding permanent U.N. Security Council countries except for China, which is considered a potential hold-out against new Iran sanctions.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Canadian broadcaster CTV, said China is part of an international consultative group on Iran - the P-5-plus-One - that has been "unified all along that way," and which has made clear that a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable to the world community.
The P-5-plus-one, the five permanent Security Council member states and Germany, held a telephone conference call on Iran last week and a senior U.S. official said another such call, with China taking part, will occur this week.
The official said the United States would like to see the Security Council act on sanctions in April, while Japan, a strong supporter of punitive action against Iran, is president of the council.
Secretary of State Clinton discussed Iran among other issues with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in a meeting here late Monday.