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. UN Security Council members hold Paris talks on how to tackle Iran
PARIS, May 2 (AFP) May 02, 2006
High-ranking officials from the UN Security Council's five permanent members are to gather in Paris Tuesday to thrash out a common position on how to tackle a defiant Iran over its nuclear programme.

The meeting, at political director-level, was the first for representatives of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States since the IAEA reported to the UN Security Council last Friday that Iran was violating a UN order to halt uranium enrichment.

The US, backed by Britain and France, is pushing for a hard line against Iran, up to and including sanctions. It fears Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear arsenal under cover of an atomic energy programme.

But Russia and China are reluctant to go along with that, and are seeking more diplomatic ways to make Iran comply with the international community's demands.

US President George W. Bush on Monday telephoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to stress "the importance of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," according to his spokesman in Washington.

Iran, for its part, has written to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to complain about the reported threat of a US attack with or without UN approval.

The letter, the state news agency IRNA said, noted a report in the New Yorker magazine that said US planners had even looked into using nuclear 'bunker-busters' to strike Iran's atomic facilities.

The Paris meeting will include an official from Germany, which, though not a permanent UN Security Council member, has held months of negotiations with Tehran on behalf of the European Union alongside France and Britain.

The gathering prepares the ground for a foreign ministers' meeting from the six countries in New York on May 9.

The United States and the Europeans are seeking a resolution invoking the UN Charter's Chapter 7 -- text which would open the door to political and economic sanctions and even, as a last resort, military action.

But China has already said that any harsh UN resolution would be "dangerous", while Russia has merely urged Iran to "take concrete steps" to build trust with the international community.

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell acknowledged in a British television interview at the weekend that "the menu of sanctions would be quite limited ... I mean those that could actually get through the Security Council."

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