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World leaders to discuss Iran's nuclear program

LONDON -- The United States, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia will confer today in London to assess Iran's defiant refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. They are expected to refer the nuclear case to the UN Security Council for talks next week on possible sanctions, diplomats said yesterday.

Russia's foreign minister, however, said he believes it is too soon to impose sanctions on Iran and that further efforts are needed to push Tehran to negotiate.

To avoid alienating the Russians and the Chinese, any sanctions are likely to be relatively mild, including embargoes on missile and nuclear technology, and possible travel bans and other penalties on Iranian officials involved in their country's nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated yesterday that his country would not be frightened by threats to impose sanctions.

``Those who threaten Iran by sanctions and embargo should know that this nation lived under the hardest situation in the past 27 years and achieved nuclear technology. This nation will not be frightened by the threats," state-run television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Iran insists its enrichment of uranium is for peaceful purposes to be used for nuclear energy.

But the United States and many European nations believe Iran wants to enrich uranium to produce nuclear weapons.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy were to attend the London meeting, the British Foreign Office and France's Foreign Ministry said. However, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said in Washington that the United States also would be represented by Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.

Germany, Russia, and China will also send high level officials to the talks, scheduled for 5 p.m. Of the six nations meeting, only Germany is not a permanent member of the U N Security Council.

The officials were likely to confirm that the European-Iranian talks aimed at persuading Tehran to suspend its enrichment program are at a standstill, a senior U N Security Council diplomat said. They will also probably issue a statement referring the case back to the Council and listing the principles on which they agree, according to the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were still taking place.

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