Britain, France and Germany will meet today to review their faltering initiative to persuade Iran to curtail its nuclear program, amid mounting pressure from the United States for punitive action. EU diplomats said the foreign ministers of the Big Three European powers would meet in the Netherlands to discuss the way forward with Tehran in the light of a U.N. nuclear agency report that highlights lingering suspicions about Iran's efforts, and a fresh broadside from Washington. EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten acknowledged in the European Parliament this week that EU attempts to build ties with Iran based on engagement had "gone backwards." U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned the Big Three foreign ministers -- Jack Straw, Michel Barnier and Joschka Fischer -- on Thursday to seek consensus on referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible action, informs Reuter. According to VOANews, the United States confirmed Thursday it will press for a referral of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions against Tehran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) begins a critical meeting on Iranian compliance with nuclear agreements September 13 in Vienna. U.S. officials had been sending mixed signals about the Bush administration's intentions with regard to the upcoming meeting of the IAEA governing board. But in a talk with reporters on a flight from Panama late Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said flatly for the first time that the United States will press in Vienna for a referral of the matter to the Security Council. The Powell remarks follow the release Wednesday of a report by IAEA inspectors revealing that despite earlier commitments to key European foreign ministers, Iran intends to pursue the further enrichment of some 37 tons of so-called yellowcake uranium, and to continue work on centrifuges that could produce weapons-grade uranium. Iran plans to convert 37 tonnes of uranium into a substance that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons, the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency has said in a report. Although the Iranian plans do not violate non-proliferation regulations because the material also has peaceful uses, they immediately stoked concern in Washington about the aims of Teheran's ambitious nuclear programme. It praised Iran for cooperating on many fronts but said key aspects of its nuclear activities were still unclear because of missing information. The two primary areas of concern are the sources of uranium contamination found at four separate locations during the past year in Iran and the extent of the country's efforts to develop advanced centrifuges for turning uranium gas into enriched uranium, which can be used in weapons or as fuel for civilian reactors, publishes the Straits Times.
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