Iran Nuclear NewsIran tops EU foreign ministers' agenda

Iran tops EU foreign ministers’ agenda

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ImageAP: Efforts to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium will top the agenda of a European Union foreign ministers' meeting Tuesday after Tehran stonewalled world powers on the issue over the weekend.

The Associated Press

By KIMBERLY CHOW

ImageBRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — Efforts to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium will top the agenda of a European Union foreign ministers' meeting Tuesday after Tehran stonewalled world powers on the issue over the weekend.

The ministers also will consider wider sanctions against Zimbabwe and receive a briefing by Middle East envoy Tony Blair on the dire economic situation of the Palestinians.

At Saturday's meeting in Geneva, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China sought to encourage Iran to stop enrichment of uranium, which can be used to fuel atomic weapons, in exchange for economic and political incentives.

The U.S. administration broke with long-standing policy to send a top diplomat to support the offer.

One member of the Iranian delegation said there was "no chance" Iran would suspend uranium enrichment, again denying assertions that Iran's nuclear program was for anything other than power production.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday, "We expected to hear an answer from the Iranians but, as has been the case so many times with the Iranians, what came through was not serious."

"It's time for the Iranians to give a serious answer," Rice told reporters aboard her plane as she flew to the United Arab Emirates.

The six powers and Solana gave Iran two weeks to respond to their demand, setting the stage for a new round of U.N. sanctions.

Solana said the two-week timeframe was meant to give Iran the space to come up with "the answers that will allow us to continue."

The EU ministers will also look at tightening sanctions against the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe, who returned to office after a runoff election in which he ran unopposed in June. The 27-nation EU has rejected the election as "a sham."

The EU ministers are expected to back a plan requiring all member nations to approve a visit by Mugabe before he would be allowed into the bloc. Today, only a majority needs to approve his visits.

They were also to assess whether they should dissuade European companies from doing business with Mugabe's government, due to concerns that he and his ministers are using businesses to move around their cash.

Blair, the former British prime minister who is now the Mideast envoy representing the United States, the EU, Russia and the United Nations, will share ideas for an economic revival for the Palestinians in the Gaza area and the West Bank.

The foreign ministers will also discuss strengthening relations with Ukraine, a country that is seeking EU membership by 2020. The EU plans to present Kiev with an offer of closer economic and political ties in September.

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