EU leaders on Friday urged international action against Iran because of its refusal to cooperate over its nuclear program, as the threat of new sanctions looms.

"Iran's persistent failure to meet its international obligations and Iran's apparent lack of interest in pursuing negotiations require a clear response," said a statement approved by the 27 EU leaders at a summit in Brussels.

"The European Union stands ready to take the necessary steps," it said, ordering EU foreign ministers to prepare these "steps," without elaborating on whether that would mean separate EU sanctions or support for new U.N. sanctions.

"Now if there is no response from Iran ... we have always said in Britain that we are prepared to consider sanctions and that is what we are prepared to do in the New Year if we don't have satisfactory responses," Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in Brussels on Friday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined in, saying he was "reassured" by what he called growing support at the United Nations for new punishment against Iran.

The United States, Britain and France warned Thursday that Iran risks increased sanctions. But Russia — which as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council could veto any new measures — reiterated its resistance to sanctions.

World powers trying to craft a diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear standoff may meet next week, though no date or venue has been publicly announced.

The U.S. and some of its allies suspect Iran's nuclear program is a cover to secretly develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied it and said the program is geared toward generating electricity.