Britain, France and Germany, the "EU3", have held two years of talks with Iran to try to persuade it to abandon its nuclear programme that both the 25-nation bloc and the United States suspect is a preliminary step towards making nuclear arms.

But the talks appear close to collapse after Iran resumed uranium conversion this month, prompting the EU to cancel a 31 August meeting.

The EU is now preparing the road to possible sanctions.

Asked whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would present his proposal within a month, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on Friday told reporters: "I hope so."

But diplomats who follow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran appeared to be stalling for time, as the EU3 were likely to push for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council in less than a month - when the IAEA governing board meets on 19 September.

Regional power

Larijani was speaking after a meeting in Vienna with IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei which appeared to be an attempt to forestall the EU's efforts.

"With the power that Iran enjoys in the region, there is no way that Iran can be worried about the threat of the Security Council"

Ali Larijani,
Iran's top nuclear negotiator

"With the power that Iran enjoys in the region, there is no way that Iran can be worried about the threat of the Security Council," he said, speaking through an interpreter.

El-Baradei is due to report on Iran's activities on 3 September.

Larijani said he thought talks could still succeed, and France said it was still open to talks.

"The door is open, our hand is outstretched, and so we are completely open to contact with the Iranians, and such contact could occur at any time," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei told a news briefing.