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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreign Ministers to Discuss Iran

PARIS -- The United States on Wednesday stepped up pressure on Iran, warning it faced UN Security Council action for failing to respond swiftly enough to a package of incentives aimed at defusing a nuclear standoff.

Foreign ministers of the world's top powers were to meet in Paris later on Wednesday to decide how to handle Iran after Tehran said it needed more time to consider the June 6 offer.

"If in fact we are not on a path of negotiations and the Iranians have decided not to take that path, then we will have no choice but to return to the Security Council," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters as she flew into Paris, referring to Wednesday's meeting. "We have to decide tonight which path we are on. ... If we have not received that 'Yes, we are on the path of negotiations,' then I think it is pretty clear by process of elimination that we are on the path of the Security Council."

France, Britain, Germany, the United States, China and Russia agreed last month on a series of measures aimed at convincing Iran to abandon large-scale uranium enrichment, which produces fuel for power plants or weapons.

They also told the Iranians they wanted a clear response before this weekend's summit of the Group of Eight in St. Petersburg.

Talks between chief Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Brussels ended Tuesday with both sides frustrated and Tehran insisting it would not be rushed into an answer. Rice said Iran's response was "disappointing and incomplete."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said last month Iran would deliver its answer to the package by Aug. 22, said Wednesday that Iran was ready to talk in a "fair atmosphere" with all parties over its nuclear program but would not retreat from what it sees as the nation's rights.

Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating electricity.

Iran was referred to the Security Council earlier this year, but work on a Security Council resolution was delayed to allow Tehran to respond to the offer of incentives.

Russia and China, both veto-holders on the council, had been reluctant to back any text they feared could lead to sanctions or military action.

EU and G8 sources have said that as long as Iran is studying the offer, Russia and China will not let the Security Council take up the issue further. If Iran were to reject it, which is highly unlikely, that position would change, they said.

"If Iran is not ready for cooperation, then the process will have to continue at the UN Security Council," Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of Finland, which holds the rotating EU presidency, told the European Parliament.

Rice said she wanted the Security Council to make clear to Iran that the international community considered it mandatory for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

She also held out the threat of ultimately imposing UN sanctions on the country.