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Western powers, EU ready for new Iran sanctions

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States, Britian and France said they were ready to impose new sanctions on Iran after a U.N. panel reported that Iran violated an arms embargo.

In addition, the European Union Friday issued a declaration on Iran Friday that it would support further UN Security Council action if Iran continues to not cooperate with the international community,although the statement also stressed that "the offer of negotiations remains on the table."

British U.N. ambassador Mark Grant said that talks about new sanctions would commence "at the beginning of the next year" if Iran did not change its behavior and answer U.N. demands to halt its nuclear program, according to media reports.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice added that "time is short" for Iran.

But China and Russia were more cautious, stressing patience.

"There is still space for the diplomatic efforts of the international community to resume talks," said Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Zhang Yesui.

The comments came after a U.N. sanctions committee expressed grave concern about a number of reports of Iran illegally exporting arms to Syria, including two shipments that were captured by Malta and Israel.

The shipments appear to violate a March 2007 U.N. arms-export embargo on Iran. In October, reported the U.N. panel, Malta seized the German-flagged Hansa India, and last month Israel intercepted the Francop, flagged by Antigua.

"The illicit smuggling of weapons from Iran to Syria is not just a sanctions violation," Rice said. "It is also an important factor in the destabilization of an already fragile Middle East."

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