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West Steps Up Pressure On Iran Over Nuclear Incentives Offer

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (left) meets with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Western powers are stepping up pressure on Iran to reply in two weeks to the international community’s latest offer of incentives for Tehran to give up uranium enrichment.

The new pressure comes after talks with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator on July 19 in Geneva failed to show progress.

Speaking to the Knesset on a visit to Israel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Tehran that it faces growing isolation if it does not comply with UN demands to stop uranium enrichment.

Brown said "just as we have led the work on three mandatory sanctions resolutions of the UN, the U.K. will continue to lead -- with the United States and our European Union partners -- in our determination to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program."

'Totally Abhorrent'

He also called threats by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad toward Israel “abhorrent.”

"[And to] those who believe that threatening statements fall upon indifferent ears, we say in one voice: It is totally abhorrent for the president of Iran to call for Israel to be wiped from the map of the world," Brown said.

Brown’s speech echoed warnings by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Iran must give a “serious answer” to the international community’s latest incentives offer or face sanctions.

Rice spoke en route to Abu Dhabi as she starts a new tour of the Middle East that is almost certain to focus on rallying regional opinion against Iran in the nuclear crisis.

The public warnings from London and Washington to Iran come after a new U.S. diplomatic initiative to break the deadlock with Iran failed to bear fruit over the weekend.

That initiative was the inclusion of a senior U.S. diplomat, Undersecretary of State William Burns, in the June 19 talks in Geneva.

Face-To-Face Negotiations

The U.S. participation in the meeting between Iran and the so-called P5+1 -- the permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany – marked the first time Washington participated directly in face-to-face negotiations with Tehran over the nuclear crisis.

However, there were no signs of any breakthroughs.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who has been the lead negotiator for the P5+1 over the incentives offer, called the meeting “constructive” but “insufficient.” He said the international community is still awaiting Iran’s response to its offer.

Iran, by contrast, hailed the meeting as a success. Ahmadinejad on July 20 called the Geneva talks “a step forward.” Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said on July 21 that the issue of Iran suspending uranium enrichment was not discussed at the meeting.

That leaves all sides in their now traditional positions over the nuclear crisis.

The P5+1 has alternated between offering Iran the “carrots” of technical and financial incentives to give up uranium enrichments, and threatening Iran with the “sticks” of UN sanctions if it does not cooperate.

Iran has repeatedly stated its willingness to negotiate but ruled out giving up its right under international treaties to engage in all aspects of what it calls a peaceful nuclear program. Tehran has ignored earlier rounds of UN Security Council sanctions as the crisis has escalated over recent years.

Possible Next Steps

Where do things go from here?

The Western powers among the P5+1 appear determined to push for a new round of UN Security Council sanctions if the current negotiating round with Iran achieves no success. Reuters quotes an unnamed adviser to the British prime minister as saying that Brown does not rule out “extended sanctions in some form on [Iran’s] oil and gas sector.”

But Russia and China, which have favored a go-slow approach in the previous two rounds of UN sanctions, have yet to signal how far they might support a tougher new round.

Their answer is only likely to become clearer as Iran does or does not fully give an answer to the P5+1 offer over the next two weeks.
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