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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Sanctions against Iran 'bad idea'
Mohamed ElBaradei
ElBaradei called on Iran to arm him with information
Iran is not an imminent threat and sanctions against the Islamic Republic would be a "bad idea", the UN nuclear watchdog chief has warned.

"We need to lower the pitch," Mohamed ElBaradei said.

Earlier, ministers from six powers stressed Iran must heed a statement by the UN Security Council, which urged the state to halt uranium enrichment.

Tehran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful and has rejected the Security Council's call.

The UK's Jack Straw warned sanctions could follow if Iran remained defiant.

Speaking in Qatar, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief said his "message to Iran" was "the international community is getting impatient".

"You need to respond by arming me with information," Mr ElBaradei added.

'Spirit of consensus'

Earlier, the five permanent members of the council and Germany said Iran had 30 days to return to the negotiating table or face isolation.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The UN should bring in some neutrals and commit to dialogue, not diplomacy!
EC Dumas, Bushey UK

The comments at talks in Berlin came a day after the council finally approved a non-binding call on Iran to end uranium enrichment, after weeks of wrangling.

The UN chief welcomed the statement.

It showed a spirit of international consensus on Iran's nuclear programme, Kofi Annan said.

Iran was defiant. "We will not, definitely, suspend enrichment," its ambassador to the IAEA, Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, said earlier on Thursday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran was still open to talks on the issue with the IAEA, but there was "mistrust" over negotiations with European nations.

He condemned the West's "unjustified propaganda", insisting that Iran's nuclear programme was peaceful.

'Strong signal'

The 15-member Security Council unanimously approved the non-binding statement on Wednesday - one month after Iran's nuclear activities were reported to the Council by the IAEA.

The Council noted with serious concern... a number of outstanding issues which could have a military nuclear dimension

On Thursday, foreign ministers from the US, China, France, Russia and the UK and Germany met to discuss what to do if Iran refused to drop its nuclear ambitions.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the meeting sent "a very strong signal to Iran that the international community is united".

The British foreign secretary said: "The onus is on Iran to show the international community that its programme is entirely for civil purposes."

When asked by reporters if the council might pass a legally binding resolution if Iran did not comply, Mr Straw said: "It can certainly include a resolution... and the possibility of measures after that."

He said that such measures could include sanctions.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country remained opposed to such a move against the Islamic Republic.

The "sole solution" would come through the IAEA, he said.




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See the foreign ministers as they discuss Iran



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