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No Progress In Talks Between EU, Iran

European nations appeared determined to drag Iran before the U.N. Security Council after last-ditch talks Monday on Tehran's nuclear program made no progress in ending the diplomatic standoff.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, said the international community has agreed Iran should not have nuclear weapons.

Iran sent its deputy nuclear negotiator Javad Vaedi for talks with French, British and German officials, but asked if the meeting had meeting had brought any progress, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy replied: "Nothing."

"The negotiating process has reached an impasse and the involvement of the Security Council is now necessary," Douste-Blazy said.

"Iran has challenged the entire international community," he told reporters. "The international community has to respond to that challenge with firmness and efficiency."

His words were echoed by the top British official in the talks. "To be frank, we didn't detect anything new in their approach," said added John Sawers, political director from the British Foreign Office.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier added that "there were no new proposals" from Iran.

Vaedi was a little more upbeat. "Now we can continue opening the chance for talks," he said.

Rice spoke at a news conference several hours before joining officials from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Britain, France, Russia and China, as well as Germany, to discuss the possibility of seeking to take Iran to the Security Council.

"We have a lot of agreement among the international community. Iran shouldn't be able to get a nuclear weapon. It must suspend its nuclear activities and go back to negotiations," Rice said.

The 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, is to meet Thursday at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, to discuss possible Security Council referral.

Rice said such a move would not end negotiations about Iran's nuclear program, or change Tehran's options of reaching an agreement that would end the standoff.

In Vienna, a diplomat familiar with the IAEA's Iran probe said the Islamic republic had allowed agency inspectors access to its Lavizan-Shian site suspected of being the repository of equipment bought by its military that could be used in a nuclear weapons program.

News of the Lavizan visit was first revealed Sunday in Tehran by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, who said IAEA inspectors trying to gain access to the site for more than a year had been given the information they sought.

The United States alleges Iran had conducted high-explosive tests that could have a bearing on developing nuclear weapons at the site.

The State Department said in 2004 that Lavizan's buildings had been completely dismantled and topsoil had been removed in attempts to hide nuclear weapons-related experiments.

IAEA officials subsequently confirmed the site on the outskirts of Tehran had been razed, but Iran said work at there was part of construction unrelated to military or nuclear matters.

The diplomat, who demanded anonymity because information about the status of the IAEA probe was confidential, said inspectors had taken samples from equipment that could potentially help establish whether they were used for peaceful or military purposes. But he said the samples could not be evaluated before Thursday's IAEA meeting.

The European Union has led negotiations meant to ease international concerns that Iran could use its nuclear program to produce weapons. Tehran says it only wants to generate nuclear power.

An EU draft statement said recent Iranian actions "run counter" to IAEA resolutions and "are a rejection of the efforts to explore whether a basis can be agreed for resuming negotiations."

In light of this, it said, the ministers could seek to take Iran's case to the Security Council, but added that the "issue can still be solved by negotiations." It said this would "require a cooperative and transparent approach on the part of the Iranian government."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Moscow was considering the possibility of China also taking part in a program to enrich uranium for Iran on Russian territory.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said talks on the Iranian nuclear issue should focus on persuading Iran to resume an enrichment moratorium, the Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies reported.

The EU and Washington have backed the Russian proposal. Iran's top nuclear negotiator visited Moscow last week to discuss the proposal and said it needs more work.

The European powers are wary of allowing Iran to carry out nuclear fuel production on its own territory. Enriched uranium can be used as both fuel for nuclear power and in the production of weapons, depending on how it is processed.