U.S., Germany losing patience with Iran

Thu Dec 3, 2009 4:44pm EST
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By Ross Colvin and Reza Derakhshi

WASHINGTON/TEHRAN (Reuters) - The United States signaled on Thursday its patience with Iran was wearing thin, saying Tehran was rapidly approaching a December deadline to accept a U.N.-brokered nuclear deal with Western powers.

Adding to the growing international pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "our patience is being sorely tested" and that fresh sanctions must be considered if Iran continued to rebuff the U.N. proposal.

The warnings from Washington and Berlin came in a week in which Tehran announced plans to build 10 uranium enrichment plants in a major expansion of its atomic program and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he saw no further need for talks with the West.

Iran's official IRNA news agency said parliament would review relations with countries that voted against Iran's nuclear activities at the International Atomic Energy Agency last week.

The IAEA board angered Iran by censuring it for covertly building a second uranium enrichment plant near the holy city of Qom, in addition to its main IAEA-monitored one at Natanz. The nuclear watchdog called for a halt to construction.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is secretly using its nuclear program as a cover to develop atomic weapons, a charge Iran denies. Under the U.N.-brokered deal, Iran would send the bulk of its low-enriched uranium abroad for processing and conversion into fuel for a civilian reactor.

In talks with six world powers in Geneva on October 1, Iran agreed in principle to the deal but has since balked. Iran has until the end of the year to agree to it or face the threat of tougher sanctions.

"Time is running out," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, adding that Iran's apparent decision to walk away from the October 1 deal "spoke volumes."   Continued...