VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- U.S. officials pressed their case Tuesday for sanctioning Iran over its defiance on uranium enrichment, calling for punishment even ahead of a meeting billed as a last-ditch effort to persuade Tehran to freeze its nuclear program.
In a Washington speech on terrorism, President Bush warned that he would never allow a nuclear-armed Iran to blackmail the world and threaten the American people.
Formally, the United States and five other world powers are giving the Iranians a final chance to compromise on enrichment at talks planned for today between European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.
But U.S. officials on both sides of the Atlantic suggested the time had already come for sanctions.
Their comments reflected Washington's skepticism that Tehran would change course in talks with Solana and signal readiness to heed the U.N. Security Council demand for a halt to enrichment, which can produce civilian nuclear fuel or fissile material for an atomic bomb.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington that the Security Council had made clear in a resolution that it was prepared to vote for sanctions if Iran failed to meet the Aug. 31 deadline to suspend enrichment.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed on the deadline day that Tehran had failed to cease enrichment.
And so, McCormack said, the United States intended to proceed "down that pathway."
Echoing those comments, Gregory L. Schulte, chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, accused Iran's leaders of making "a strategic decision to acquire nuclear weapons," adding: "The time has come for the Security Council to back international diplomacy with international sanctions."
U.N. and European officials told The Associated Press on Monday on that Larijani and Solana had tentatively agreed to try to bridge differences over the nuclear program. The officials insisted on anonymity for sharing the confidential information.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.