The United States and its European allies joined Friday in saying they would try to pressure Iran back into nuclear negotiations despite the Islamic republic's failure after three months to answer the nations' terms for talks.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. and its partners were making it clear to Tehran that it was headed down a "dangerous path" with its pursuit of nuclear weapons and threats to close off the Strait of Hormuz _ through which much of the world's fuel travels to reach international markets.
"Iran does have a choice to make," Clinton told reporters in Washington after meeting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
"It can come back to the table ... and address the nuclear program concerns that the international community rightly has, or face increasing pressure and isolation," she said. "The country can be reintegrated into the global community, able to share in the benefits, when their government definitely turns away from pursuing nuclear weapons."
Clinton spoke after the European Union released a letter it sent to Iran in October, imploring renewed talks to answer the international concerns about Iran's uranium enrichment activity. The West fears it is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the work is for energy and research purposes.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday the international community remained open to talks with Iran, even as a blocwide embargo on Iranian oil appeared set for approval Monday. She said world powers have shown a "continued willingness to engage" Iran, but have received no reply to their Oct. 21 offer of more talks.
The letter she sent to Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, states the overall goal of a negotiated solution that "restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program."
The pressure coincided with work in European capitals ahead of the likely approval Monday in Brussels of new restrictions on Iranian oil. The embargo would immediately prohibit the signing of any new oil contracts with Iran, diplomats said, though the details of the embargo will be left for later.
The details would include the date when existing contracts to buy Iranian oil would no longer be valid. Britain, Germany and France are eager for a strong and quickly implemented embargo on Iranian oil, but financially strapped Greece benefits from low prices it pays for Iranian fuel. It wants assurances that the embargo will not become a financial burden it cannot bear.
Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged stronger, more decisive sanctions against Iran, including a continentwide freeze on international assets of Iran's central bank. In an annual speech on French diplomacy Friday, Sarkozy accused Iran of lying and denounced what he called its "senseless race for a nuclear bomb."
"Time is running out," he said. "Everything must be done to avoid" international military intervention.