Iran could face more sanctions

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Six major nations agreed yesterday to seek new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program after the country failed to meet a weekend deadline to respond to an offer intended to defuse the dispute, the United States said.

Representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany decided in a high-level conference call that Iran's lack of response to an incentives package aimed at getting it to halt sensitive atomic activity left them no option other than to pursue new punitive measures, the United States said.

"We are disappointed that we have not yet received a response from Iran," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters. "We agreed in the absence of a clear, positive response from Iran (that) we have no choice but to pursue further measures against Iran."

Meantime, Iran announced that it has tested a new weapon capable of sinking ships nearly 200 miles away. Tehran reiterated threats to close a strategic waterway at the mouth of the Gulf if attacked. Up to 40 percent of the world's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage along Iran's southern coast. Iran has warned it could shut down tanker traffic there if attacked — a move likely to send oil prices skyrocketing.

The conference call among senior diplomats from the six nations took place after Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalali told European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana that Tehran would deliver a written response to the offer today, Gallegos said.

He would not say if sanctions would be pursued if Iran accepted the offer today but added that any reply from Tehran would be reviewed and a determination made then on how to proceed.

"Iran has a clear choice: engagement or isolation," Gallegos said. "The incentives package contained everything Iran needed to pursue a modern civil nuclear power program, which Iran's leaders claim is their aim. The pressure on Iran to comply with the demands of the international community and its (UN Security Council) obligations will only grow."

The United States and its European allies fear Iran intends to use the technology to develop material for nuclear weapons under the cloak of a civilian nuclear power program. Iran denies the accusation.

The UN Security Council has already adopted three sanctions resolutions against Iran. The United States, the European Union, as well as individual EU members have imposed their own financial measures against Iranian entities and individuals.