The United States, Britain and France expressed growing concern Wednesday that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program and developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The three Western powers were joined by Russia and China, which have close ties to Iran, in calling on the government in Tehran to return to negotiations on its nuclear program. China's deputy UN ambassador Wang Ming said, without elaborating, that "at present new opportunities have emerged for restarting dialogue."
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council spoke after a briefing by the head of the committee monitoring sanctions against Iran. The council imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran in June for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment and start negotiations with the five permanent members and Germany.
The council briefing took place ahead of a meeting next week of foreign ministers from the six countries on the sidelines of the annual ministerial session of the UN General Assembly.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is among some 140 world leaders scheduled to attend the annual meeting and a summit to promote the achievement of UN anti-poverty goals that precedes it.
Ambassadors from the three Western countries highlighted a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency and comments Monday by its chief, Yukiya Amano, who said he cannot confirm that all of Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful, as Tehran claims, because the country has offered only selective cooperation to the UN nuclear watchdog and has rejected several inspectors.
In Tehran, Ahmadinejad on Wednesday criticized the threat of new sanctions, saying Iran can survive without the United States and its allies. He told NBC News in an interview that Iran was justified in barring further visits by inspectors. "We in Iran are in a position to meet our own requirements," he said.
US Ambassador Susan Rice pointed to "clear evidence that Iran is refusing to take any step to begin resolving concerns that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons — and continues actions that in fact deepen these concerns."
"The IAEA's report is the clearest evidence yet that Iran is refusing to address our proliferation concerns and appears determined to acquire a nuclear weapons capability," she said.
Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy, but France's UN Ambassador Gerard Araud believes "Iran's nuclear program has no credible civilian application."
The Western envoys said despite deep concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions, the offer of negotiations remains on the table.
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