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. Russia balks at draft Iran resolution
MOSCOW, May 6 (AFP) May 06, 2006
Differences between the United States and its key UN allies over Iran were exposed again on Saturday when Russia said major changes were needed in a draft resolution requiring Tehran to halt uranium enrichment.

The draft resolution being debated "requires major changes," Russia's Interfax and RIA-Novosti news agencies quoted the country's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak as saying before leaving for talks at UN headquarters in New York.

"It's too early to say what changes should be brought to the draft resolution to satisfy the Russian side. Consultations are ongoing," Kislyak told reporters.

Members of the UN Security Council were expected on Saturday to hold talks on the resolution put forward by London and Paris in response to international concern over the nature of Iran's nuclear programme.

The resolution would legally oblige Iran, under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, to suspend uranium enrichment -- the process used to produce fuel for nuclear reactors and, potentially, the core material of an atomic bomb.

If Iran does not comply, the draft warns there would be unspecified "further measures", that would require the adoption of another UN resolution.

Iran has remained defiant over its right to enrich uranium to generate atomic energy and differences have emerged between global powers over what to do next.

Washington wants the UN Security Council to take centre stage and call for tough action against Tehran.

But Beijing and Moscow, which is building Iran's first nuclear reactor, oppose sanctions and stress the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), should play the key diplomatic role.

On Saturday, Kislyak outlined the terms of a deal that would allow both the IAEA to carry out necessary checks and Iran to continue its nuclear programme.

Russia "has come forward with an offer the essence of which is that Iran freeze uranium enrichment work for a time to work with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to restore trust in the character of Iran's nuclear programme", Kislyak was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying.

Under Moscow's proposal, put forward in varying forms over the past few months, Russia would then enrich uranium on its territory on behalf of Iran for a certain period of time.

The offer "remains on the negotiating table," Kislyak said.

The international community's call for Iran to halt uranium enrichment work "is not an aim in itself but a tool for restoring trust in their nuclear programme", the Russian minister added.

Western powers suspect Iran is trying to build up a nuclear weapons capability under the cover of an atomic energy programme but Iran says its nuclear aims are peaceful and has defended the country's right to develop civilian nuclear power.

Diplomats said earlier that a vote on the draft resolution was unlikely until after a meeting in New York on Monday of foreign ministers from the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.

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