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Unity on Iran nuclear weapon call

Britain, Germany and France have joined forces in a call to Iran to abandon "a path that threatens the peace and security of us all".

A statement in the names of the Prime Minister, chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French president Nicolas Sarkozy followed agreement by EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on a ban on Iranian crude oil exports.

The three leaders described the sanctions package - designed to seriously hinder the regime's economic muscle - as "unprecedented" and said: "Our message is clear: we have no quarrel with the Iranian people, but the Iranian leadership has failed to restore international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme."

The statement continued: "We will not accept Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran has so far had no regard for its international obligations and is already exporting and threatening violence around its region."

The warning came as an American aircraft carrier, joined by a British Royal Navy frigate and a French warship, went through the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to block in response to the oil ban.

With tensions in the region mounting, Britain, Germany and France reinforced a statement from the Brussels talks by declaring: "We call on Iran's leadership immediately to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities and abide fully by its international obligations.

"The door is open to Iran to engage in serious and meaningful negotiations about its nuclear programme. Until Iran comes to the table, we will be united behind strong measures to undermine the regime's ability to fund its nuclear programme, and to demonstrate the cost of a path that threatens the peace and security of us all."

Earlier Foreign Secretary William Hague emerged from the talks in Brussels to welcome the oil sanctions, which had full British backing.

"This shows the resolve of the European Union on this issue," he said. "It is absolutely right to do this when Iran is continuing to breach United Nations resolutions and refusing to come to meaningful negotiations on its nuclear programme."

The Foreign Secretary said he expected the sanctions to be "very effective" in opening Iran up to engaging in "meaningful" talks.

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