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Six-nation nuclear talks fail to agree on new sanctions

The "P5+1", comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, held closed-door talks in New York on Saturday to decide on a response to Iran's nuclear defiance but failed to reach an agreement.

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AFP - Representatives of six major powers ended a meeting in New York Saturday to mull a response to Iran's nuclear defiance without reaching agreement, a Russian official said.

"We had a very sober assessment," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters. "It is inconclusive in the sense that we did not make any decisions right away."

The closed-door working luncheon, which lasted a little over two hours, grouped the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

Beijing, which has been cool to the prospect of slapping a fourth round of sanctions on Tehran backed by the West, sent a lower-level diplomat, while the other countries were represented by political directors of their respective foreign ministries.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley insisted Thursday that "it will be a useful meeting to have regardless of the Chinese representation."

Diplomatic sources said the European Union-hosted meeting of the so-called P5+1 was preceded by a two-hour gathering of the four Western members of the group.

Asked whether Moscow was prepared to back fresh sanctions against Iran for refusing to comply with UN demands that it halt nuclear enrichment, Ryabkov said, "Russia has always supported the dual-track approach."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the six would explore "the kind and degree of sanctions that we should be pursuing" as Iran doggedly refused to comply with UN demands to halt uranium enrichment.

Western members of the group were likely to present their Russian and Chinese colleagues with a range of new and tougher sanctions, diplomats said.      Measures said to be under consideration include tougher sanctions targeting Iran's insurance, financial and arms sectors.

The goal is to increase the pressure so Iran will accept a UN-brokered deal aimed at allaying suspicions about the nature of its nuclear program.

The proposal would have most of Iran's low enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile shipped abroad to be further enriched into reactor fuel.

But Tehran has ignored a US-set December 31 deadline to accept the offer, drawn up by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, and countered with its own proposal of a simultaneous and staged swap of LEU with reactor fuel.

In a bid to minimize the impact on the Iranian people -- and avoid affecting the very people protesting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hardline regime -- Washington favors sanctions targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, seen as the economic and military backbone of the Iranian regime.

Washington and its Western allies fear that Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program.

But Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and solely geared toward generating electricity for its civilian population.

Washington along with Britain, France and Germany have for months sought to convince Russia and China that the time has come to get tougher with the Islamic republic, which has already ignored three sets of Security Council sanctions.

Diplomats noted that Moscow, having seen its mediation efforts rebuffed by Tehran, has signaled it is prepared to turn up the heat on the Iranians.

But China, which has close economic and energy ties with Iran, has said new sanctions would be premature and that more time should be given for diplomacy to work.

In addition to EU senior security adviser Robert Cooper, Ryabkov and China's Kang Yong, the meeting brought together Geoffrey Adams of Britain, Jacques Audibert of France, Emily Haber of Germany and William Burns of the United States.
 

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