Citing Iran's "pattern of violations," the United States, Britain and France warned of increased pressure and tougher United Nations sanctions against Iran to stop its nuclear program.
In a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, France adopted a harsh stance, calling on the Council to take immediate action on sanctions against Iran.
"There is no longer any reason to wait," France's permanent UN representative, GÃ©rard Araud, told the Council.
"The clock is ticking," Araud told reporters after the Council meeting. "Iran has never entered into a negotiation," he said. "If Iran does not do it in the short term, France will propose a new resolution on sanctions."
The Council, which met to discuss Iran's compliance with previous resolutions, acknowledged recent violations of its arms embargo, including illegal shipments of weapons from Iran to Syria. In one case, Israel intercepted a cargo vessel, the Francop, which was carrying weapons from Iran to Syria.
"Today's discussion at the Security Council sends an unambiguous message to Iran that it must fulfill its international obligations as the Council considers additional sanctions," Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev told The Jerusalem Post. "While the most substantive Iranian threat emanates from its nuclear program, Iran continues to smuggle deadly weapons to global terrorist organizations," she added. "Today's meeting further demonstrates that Iran continues to seriously threaten the stability of the Middle East and the entire world."
Araud said the Council recognized a clear pattern of violations by Iran.
"We have all the evidence on the table," he said. "We are now convinced there is a deliberate attempt by the Islamic Republic of Iran to violate the UN resolutions," he said.
During the meeting, the Libyan ambassador asked whether the Council had adopted a double standard by ignoring Israel's possible nuclear program. Israel has not confirmed or denied nuclear capabilities.
But Araud distinguished between the two states. "Iran has signed the non-proliferation treaty," he said. "Iran is violating the obligation it has undertaken."
Asked whether Council members were concerned that Iran would exit the NPT group of countries that signed the non-proliferation treaty, the British ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters that such a move would be "extremely negative" and a signal that Iran is clearly pursuing a nuclear weapon. He added that Council members would not be derailed from considering further sanctions. "The international community is not going to be threatened by Iran," he said.
In slightly softer language than his French colleague, Grant acknowledged that "patience is running out" in the Council. By the end of the year, he said, if there is "no clear willingness to negotiate, then clearly the Security Council will need to look again at further sanctions."
Still, during the Council meeting, Russia called for further patience.
"We need to be patient, calm, not emotional," said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
Despite that plea, US Ambassador Susan Rice said there was "unity and resolve" in the P5+1 group, which includes China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US. Rice said the US had "grave concerns about the breadth and frequency of Iran's violations" and was not shy about the possibility of "further actions, further pressure and further sanctions."
Though the US is committed to a dual-track policy of engagement and pressure, Rice said "time is short," and "the choice is now Iran's." Absent forthcoming negotiations, she said, "The emphasis will increase substantially in that dual-track program to pressure."
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency rebuked Iran for its nuclear activities and censured a secret uranium enrichment facility near Qom. Teheran responded by pledging an expansion of its nuclear program, including 10 more nuclear plants.