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Iran stretching EU patience, says Ferrero-Waldner

Written by: Staff
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HELSINKI, Sep 10 (Reuters) Iran is stretching the European Union's patience by ignoring a UN demand to stop uranium enrichment and could face sanctions if no progress is made on resolving the row, a senior EU official said today.

''Certainly our patience is being stretched,'' EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told Reuters at a meeting of Asian and EU leaders in Finland.

''We regret very much up until now the Iranian attitude, but at the same time we do hope to find a diplomatic solution,'' said Ferrero-Waldner, who has had no direct role in continuing EU talks with Iran to seek a way out of the dispute.

Asked about the prospect of sanctions if Iran did not comply, she said: ''It is clear the Security Council resolution has been ignored and so if there were a total standstill, then certainly consequences could not be totally ruled out.'' The Commissioner spoke after EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Vienna. The two men said afterwards they had made progress in the search for a compromise to avoid possible UN sanctions and Solana said they would meet again soon.

The United States is pushing to begin moves next week for sanctions against Iran over Tehran's refusal to halt its nuclear work before any negotiations to put the wide-ranging incentives offer into effect. Washington says the work could lead to nuclear weapons but Tehran says its programme is peaceful.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot told reporters earlier in Helsinki sanctions could be discussed in the coming week if Iran did not comply. EU foreign ministers are due to discuss the Iran issue at a meeting in Brussels on Friday.

REUTERS SY BD1940

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