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Impatient G8 Sets Iran Deadline Over Nuclear

U.S. President Barack Obama with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown
L'AQUILA, Italy (Reuters) -- Major powers in the Group of Eight (G8) will give negotiations with Iran a chance until September, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on July 8, upping the stakes in a dispute over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Speaking after talks with fellow G8 leaders, Sarkozy said they would review the situation at a G20 meeting of developed and developing countries in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25.

"If there is no progress by then we will have to take decisions," said Sarkozy, indicating that tougher sanctions might be imposed if Tehran continued to resist negotiations.

A White House deputy national security adviser, Mike Froman, told reporters the G8 discussions had reflected "a collective impatience with Iran," which Western countries believe is trying to build an atomic bomb.

In a separate statement, the G8 said it was committed to finding a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear program.

Tehran has so far rejected Western overtures for talks, saying it wants to master nuclear technology only to generate electricity and has repeatedly rejected demands freezing its sensitive uranium enrichment work.

"We sincerely hope that Iran will seize this opportunity to give diplomacy a chance to find a negotiated solution to the nuclear issue," the G8 statement said.

"At the same time we remain deeply concerned over proliferation risks posed by Iran's nuclear program."

Underscoring G8 concern over nuclear proliferation, the world power leaders urged a quick start to talks on a treaty banning production of nuclear bomb-making materials and called on all states to observe a moratorium on nuclear explosions.

They also confirmed that Washington would host a nuclear security summit in March, White House officials said.

"This is another important piece of the non-proliferation agenda that [President Barack Obama] has put forward," White House adviser Mark Lippert said.

Iran Violence, North Korea

The G8 statement also deplored the violence in Iran following last month's disputed presidential election and said arrests of journalists and foreigners there were "unacceptable."

Moreover, it repeated criticism of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad for denying the existence of the World War II Holocaust of Jews.

Iran was top of the agenda at discussions on international affairs on the evening of July 8 that wrapped up a first day of talks at an annual summit of G8 leaders, being held in the central Italian city of L'Aquila.

The G8 statement condemned recent missile tests in North Korea, saying they were a danger to peace and stability.

"We urge [North Korea] to refrain from further violations of relevant Security Council resolutions and to engage in dialogue and cooperation," the statement said.

Pyongyang fired seven missiles into the Sea of Japan on July 4 -- U.S. Independence Day -- in an apparent act of defiance of Washington.