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Middle east

Six powers resume talks on new round of Iran sanctions

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-15

The five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany are holding further talks on a new round of sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment programme, which Western powers see as a cover for plans to build nuclear weapons.

AFP - Six major powers resumed closed-door bargaining here Wednesday on new UN sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program, but diplomats cautioned against expecting early adoption by the full Security Council.

The meeting, following a similar exploratory one last week, got under way at the US mission to the UN and brought together the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

"We have a very important consultation with a focus on diplomacy," China's UN envoy Li Baodong said on his way to the talks.

Diplomats said envoys of four Western powers were trying to enlist the support of their Russian and Chinese counterparts for a fourth UN sanctions resolution aimed at persuading Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment program.

The United States and its Western allies believe Tehran is using uranium enrichment as a cover to build nuclear weapons, a claim the Iranians deny.

The 15-member council, including China, has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran over the issue.

On the table was a US draft resolution outlining sanctions in five areas: arms embargo, energy, shipping, finance and targeted punitive measures against Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, a diplomat familiar with the discussions said.

Diplomats said they anticipated drawn-out discussions on the US text and hinted that a vote by the full 15-member council might not take place until June.

In Washington earlier Wednesday, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns spoke of "a sense of urgency" in crafting a fourth UN sanctions resolution in the face of Iran's continued refusal to freeze its suspect nuclear activities.

"We are working aggressively to adopt concrete measures that will serve as a platform to strengthen and expand upon existing sanctions and target the power centers mostly likely to have an impact on Iran's strategic calculus," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.

A top US military official meanwhile said Iran could make enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb in one year, but would likely not have the know-how to complete a weapon for 3-5 years.

General James Cartwright, the number two uniformed US officer, told the Senate Armed Services he was making "a historical estimate" not specific to Tehran and underlined that he could not predict "what problems they will encounter."

And Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, said Washington has not determined that Iran has decided to develop highly enriched uranium.

Wednesday's closed-door ambassador-level meeting comes two days after foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States discussed the issue in Washington on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit.

The ministers confirmed that substantive negotiations on a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran can proceed at ambassador level here in New York, diplomats said.

The proposed US draft, which incorporates comments from Washington's European allies, would slap sanctions targeting Iran's energy, arms, shipping and financial sectors, according to sources familiar with the issue.

But diplomats said Russia and China were opposed to any ban on investments in the energy sector and were likely to resist measures that would authorize seizures of cargo suspected of containing materials linked to Iran's nuclear activities.

The US draft would also expand sanctions against Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, a pillar of the regime and the driving force behind its controversial nuclear program.

Tuesday, a top Chinese official said in Washington that China, which has close energy and economic ties with Tehran, was ready to discuss "new ideas" on Iran.

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said China still favored continued negotiations to resolve the dispute over Iran's controversial nuclear drive, but said it was open to discussion.

Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is peaceful and solely geared toward electricity generation for its growing population.

It also argues that it is entitled to conduct uranium enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it has signed.

Date created : 2010-04-14


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