The Group of Eight industrialized nations is set to discuss Iran's nuclear program Friday In Washington. A top U.S. official says Iran can avoid possible sanctions if it cooperates with the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Officials from the Group of Eight, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Undersecretary of State John Bolton, say they will explore a common strategy on Iran just days after Tehran rejected European efforts to halt the Islamic Republic's uranium enrichment program.

Speaking in Tokyo, Mr. Armitage praised Germany, the United Kingdom, and France for trying to stop Iran's program, saying the Iranians had made the decision to conceal it.

"They continue to hide their program and they have made some very scurrilous statements publicly. We hold a view that Iran needs to be brought to account," he said.

While saying Washington is open to all ideas, Mr. Armitage told reporters Tehran should understand that the G8 wants to see an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Tuesday his country would not be forced through negotiations to stop its enrichment activities.

The United States and others believe Iran's nuclear activities are aimed at developing atomic bombs. Iran says the program is for generating electricity and wants to enrich uranium so that it does not have to depend on imported fuel.

The United States has been pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to find Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog last month called on Tehran to halt its enrichment activities. The IAEA said it might refer the issue to the Security Council if Tehran fails to take action before the Agency's governors meet on November 25.