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. US welcomes 'strong' UN resolution on Iran, says talks still option
MIAMI, July 31 (AFP) Aug 01, 2006
Washington on Monday hailed a "strong" UN Security Council resolution ordering Tehran halt uranium enrichment by August 31 or face possible sanctions, but stressed the door of diplomacy remained open.

"It's a strong resolution. I want to thank our partners. This resolution follows up on the North Korea resolution," US President George W. Bush said during a visit here.

"The Iranians must hear loud and clear with this resolution, the world is intent upon working together to make sure that they do not end up with a nuclear weapon or the know-how to build a nuclear weapon," said Bush.

"I want to thank our allies on this very important resolution and remind the American people that we've had a strategy in place to send a common message, a unified message, to the Iranian leadership," Bush said.

Resolution 1696, adopted by a vote of 14-1, expressed "serious concern" at Iran's refusal to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) orders to halt uranium enrichment and other work that could lead to a nuclear bomb.

But the text stopped short of an immediate threat of sanctions, opposed by Russia and China, and said punitive action would be the subject of further discussions.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the wording meant Iran still had time to cooperate with world powers on its nuclear program and avoid an all-out confrontation.

"I want to be very clear that this doesn't close the door to diplomacy," Rice told reporters on her way back to Washington from a Middle East peace mission.

"Obviously the Iranians still have a six-party package on the table that could take this along another route," she said in reference to an international offer of incentives for the Islamic state that Tehran has so far failed to respond to.

She refused to speculate about what types of sanctions might be slapped on Iran should it fail to cooperate. She said Washington was awaiting Tehran's response and not drawing up a sanction list yet.

Rice said the main merit of the Security Council resolution was it stated clearly that Iran had to stop uranium enrichment, thus dismissing earlier Tehran arguments that the program was a national right.

"Iranians have argued over and over that this was just something that was negotiated between the parties, there was no obligation under this ... and therefore they were within their rights to enrich and reprocess," Rice said.

"We cannot underestimate the importance of making this suspension mandatory."

The resolution was also strongly backed by Britain, and a spokesman for visiting Prime Minister Tony Blair also expressed satisfaction at the Security Council action.

"We welcome the fact that the Security Council has passed the resolution on Iran," said the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with standard British practice, said in San Francisco where Blair was visiting.

"That's both significant and welcome, and we hope that Iran abides by what the Security Council says."

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