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. Russia and China press for changes to Iran draft
NEW YORK, May 6 (AFP) May 07, 2006
Russia and China on Saturday stuck to their demands for major changes to a draft resolution that would legally oblige Iran to halt uranium enrichment, as the UN Security Council held inconclusive consultations on the text.

The council's 15 members met informally for two hours at Britain's UN mission here following a morning meeting of the body's five veto-wielding permanent members that apparently failed to bridge differences on the Franco-British draft.

"We had a very constructive discussion," US Ambassador John Bolton told reporters after the afternoon meeting. "Some of the major issues are still outstanding."

He said the council would meet again Monday in the hope that an acceptable draft could be put to a vote next week.

His French colleague, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, also said that, while there was some movement, "major sticking points remain... There's still a lot to do."

Foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- the permanent members of the Security Council -- plus Germany are also to meet here Monday.

Bolton said they would not be burdened with the draft and would instead focus on the longer-term strategy to deal with Tehran.

Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons capability under the cover of its civilian atomic program. Iran, however, insists its nuclear aims are peaceful and has defended its right to conduct uranium enrichment as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Russia and China, which have close trading ties with Tehran, adamantly oppose sanctions and the use of force against Iran.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya backed a comment by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak in Moscow earlier in the day that the tough draft "requires major changes".

Wang said sticking points remained the draft's reference to Chapter Seven of the UN charter and its suggestion that the Iranian nuclear program represents a threat to international peace and security.

Chapter Seven can authorize economic sanctions or military action as a last resort.

The draft would oblige Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, the process creating fuel for nuclear reactors and -- potentially -- the core of an atomic bomb. It warns, in cases of Iranian non-compliance, of unspecified "further measures" requiring another resolution.

Wang reiterated that Beijing did not see the need to invoke Chapter Seven since, in his view, all Security Council resolutions are binding.

"If there's some other formulation that all would agree that the requirement on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities would be mandatory, of course we'd take a look at it," Bolton said.

"But let's be clear we are not prepared to extend these negotiations endlessly," he said.

Tanzanian Ambassador Augustine Mahiga for his part said: "We've reached a point where we tried to incorporate some inducements for the Iranians to cooperate but also to remove whatever implication or threat that might be implied."

He said the discussions also focused on the need to strengthen the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and pursue cooperation between the IAEA and Tehran.

Ahead of Monday's high-level meeting, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Russia and China say the nuclear standoff must be resolved diplomatically, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) leading the process.

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

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

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

Meanwhile the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates said Saturday that Gulf Arab states were worried by Iran's nuclear energy program and were seeking greater assurances from Tehran that its intentions are entirely peaceful.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayhan, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, was speaking after a summit of GCC leaders in Riyadh.

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