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. US senator says Iran key isssue for US ties with Russia, China
BRUSSELS, April 29 (AFP) Apr 29, 2006
Influential US senator John McCain warned this weekend that decisions by China and Russia over Iran would be a "key test" for their relations with the United States.

Meanwhile, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, called on Saturday for a "diplomatic solution in the (United Nations) Security Council", adding that "to ask about coalition outside the Security Council while we are trying to get together inside the Security Council" would be "a contradiction".

Speaking Friday evening at a forum on transatlantic relations in Brussels, McCain refused to rule out military action to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.

"There is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran," he said.

But he also argued that hard-hitting sanctions would "help forestall the need for greater coercion".

Currently, Russia and China -- both veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council -- are opposed to sanctions against Tehran.

"The Security Council should impose multilateral sanctions", McCain said, "including a prohibition on investment, a travel ban, and asset freezes for government leaders and nuclear scientists."

"In taking these steps at the UN, China and Russia should know that their decisions on the Iranian issue will be a key test of our relations," the senator, a potential Republican candidate in 2008's US presidential election, added.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned on 19 April that the United States would be perfectly capable of taking military action unilaterally, or together with an international coalition, if the dispute with Iran could not be resolved within the UN.

Iran is suspected, mainly by the United States, of wanting to obtain nuclear weapons. The Iranian government denies this, and refused to comply with a Security Council injunction to suspend its uranium enrichment programmes by Friday.

The Western powers, who insist that they want to resolve this dispute diplomatically, are expected to present a resolution to the Security Council next week, legally requiring Tehran to respect its obligations, but without threatening any immediate sanctions.

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