Iran's nuclear program is of "critical concern" and will top the agenda when foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations meet Monday to discuss global security, Canada's foreign minister said.
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said he'll press for stiffer sanctions against Iran when G-8 ministers assemble in Gatineau, Quebec for the meeting which begins Monday evening and continues through Tuesday.
The United States and its Western allies have been pushing for a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful means only, but Western powers believe the country is working to produce an atomic weapon.
"Unfortunately I believe we are left with little choice but to pursue additional sanctions against Iran ideally through the United Nations Security Council," Cannon said.
Cannon said he'll discuss with his G-8 colleagues what they can do to put additional pressure on Iran to persuade it to stop its nuclear enrichment activities and convince them to return to the negotiating table.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be attending the meeting that comes just days after their countries struck a landmark agreement cutting their nuclear arsenals by a third.
Russia's position at the conference is key because it has close commercial ties with Tehran and has used its position as a veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council member to water down Western-backed sanctions.
Lavrov said recently that Iran was allowing an opportunity for mutually beneficial dialogue with the West to "slip away." Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday imposing more sanctions is not the best option, but cannot be excluded.
The G-8 meeting of foreign ministers precedes June's G-8 summit uniting world leaders in Huntsville, Ontario that will also focus on non-economic issues like nuclear proliferation. The G-8 includes the US, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Russia. Canada will also host a G-20 economic summit of leaders a day after the Huntsville meeting.
Before welcoming the G-8 ministers, Cannon will host a summit of five Arctic coastal countries to discuss continental shelf delineation. Canada, the US, Denmark, Norway and Russia have competing claims to the Arctic where melting ice is expected to free up valuable resources.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told The Associated Press the combination of vast resources and new transport routes could increase tension. He said the meeting is a good idea because there's a lot more interest in the Arctic now than there was five years ago.
The five countries are expected to reaffirm a commitment to international treaties governing the region, he said. He also expects each state to update where they are at in mapping the continental shelf.
"As climate change takes place, and new transport routes open up, it can be managed in a way which will avoid conflict," Stoere said. "If you want to avoid conflict you better engage governments, put them around the table and agree on the basic principals."