France To Iran: Stop Nukes, Then Meet

Atom, Iran flag, Russia flag, nuclear
France rejected Iran's request for more talks on the Islamic republic's nuclear program, saying Wednesday that Tehran first must suspend its atomic activities.

The foreign ministry says Tehran's decision to resume some of its activities means it would be impossible to meet under "satisfactory conditions," reports CBS News correspondent Elaine Cobbe.

Iran had asked for a ministerial-level meeting with France, Germany, Britain and the European Union.

"Iran must return to a complete suspension of these activities," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said.

French insistence that Iran suspend its program before negotiations can resume is part of a wider effort to pressure Iran to halt nuclear research that the West fears could lead to nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is for civilian use.

Iran broke a moratorium this month on Iranian enrichment — a path to nuclear arms.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns supported the idea that Iran should suspend its program and return to talks.

"There is a consensus that Iran should turn back, return to negotiations and suspend its nuclear program," Burns told reporters in Bombay, India, during a South Asia tour. "But that's not the path Iran is on now."

The Bush administration sent Burns to London to coordinate a strategy with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia on dealing with Iran. Burns conceded differences remained after Tuesday's meeting.

"We reached a consensus on some points ... others need to be worked on," he said.

Burns repeated U.S. demands that the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency refer Iran to the Security Council — where it could face sanctions — for resuming research on centrifuges used in uranium enrichment. Russia and China oppose sending Iran to the Security Council.

Earlier Wednesday, Iran's foreign minister told state radio the nation's chances of being referred to the Security Council were slim. Manouchehr Mottaki did not give a reason for his view, but emphasized that Iran wanted to restart negotiations with Britain, France and Germany.

The European states, with U.S. backing, were calling for a Feb. 2 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss taking action against Iran following Tehran's decision earlier this month to resume small-scale enrichment of uranium — a process that can produce material for atomic reactors or bombs.