Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 18:47 UK

Iran faces new sanctions warning

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said Tehran would respond on Tuesday

The US and Britain have threatened Iran with new economic sanctions if it does not respond positively to incentives for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment.

The US said the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany had agreed they would have no choice but to take further punitive measures.

Britain said it would back sanctions if Iran failed to give what it called an unambiguous response by Tuesday.

The move follows "inconclusive" talks between the EU and Tehran.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, spoke by phone to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana earlier on Monday.

Mr Solana had given Iran until last Saturday to respond to an offer not to impose further sanctions against Iran in return for a freeze on its uranium enrichment programme.

A spokesman for Mr Solana described the talks as "inconclusive". Mr Jalili said Iran would issue a formal written response to the offer on Tuesday.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for entirely peaceful purposes, while the US and its allies believe it could be used to develop a nuclear weapon.

No imminent crisis

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - along with Germany set the offer in June in an effort to persuade Iran to halt its uranium enrichment programme.

Last month, the Bush administration's third most senior state department official travelled to Switzerland to participate in a meeting between European and Iranian officials.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says all the signs were of one last diplomatic push to try to win over the Iranians before a significant toughening of sanctions.

That may be the game-plan in London and Washington, and doubtless in Paris and Berlin, but it may not be the way things are seen in Beijing and Moscow, our correspondent says.

What Iran says in its written response matters because this will determine how far Russia and China are willing to go to bring in additional UN Security Council measures, he adds.

The Americans and the Europeans could choose to reinforce sanctions of their own.

But our correspondent says the Iranians have clearly made a judgement that despite all the talk of potential air strikes against its nuclear facilities, the US presidential campaign, Israel's political uncertainty and high oil prices mean that a crisis is not imminent.

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