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. World powers differing over Iran
VIENNA, Sept 13 (AFP) Sep 13, 2006
Divisions between world powers on how to crack down on Iran's atomic program were visible at a UN nuclear agency meeting as they failed to issue a joint statement, with the EU set Wednesday to tell Tehran it has an international obligation to suspend uranium enrichment.

The six nations which are trying to work out a nuclear deal with Iran "couldn't agree on a statement" at the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors because "the United States was too tough," a Western diplomat told AFP.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States have offered Iran talks on trade and other benefits if Tehran will first suspend uranium enrichment, the process that makes nuclear reactor fuel but also atom bomb material.

The United States, which charges that Iran is hiding secret work to make nuclear weapons, is pushing for United Nations sanctions against Iran for failing to honor a UN resolution that set an August 31 deadline for Tehran to halt the strategic nuclear fuel work.

But top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani offered over the weekend to consider a temporary halt in uranium enrichment, in talks with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Vienna that are set to continue later this week.

However the US State Department Tuesday denied the reports of an Iranian offer to temporarily suspend enrichment.

"To the best of my knowledge, there's been no Iranian proposal (and) there's been no change in the Iranian position, meaning they have not agreed to suspend uranium enrichment activities for any length of time," said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman.

The Western diplomat told AFP that Russia and China want to see how the Larijani-Solana talks play out.

"This is what Iran wants with its tactics, to divide the international community," the diplomat said.

Russia, like China a key trading ally of Iran, warned Tuesday against rushing to punish Tehran.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko said there was no hurry to decide.

"What is our aim: sanctions or a result? If we aim for the result, then let's be a little patient," he told journalists in Moscow.

But US ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte told AFP the six world powers were united.

The six all "want to see a full and verified suspension and that means that we would expect all the enrichment activities to be suspended.

"And we would want to have the IAEA verify that the suspension is in fact taking place," Schulte said.

He said the six were very clear on this and that if Iran does not suspend, "the Security Council has already made it clear its intention to move forward with sanctions."

Meanwhile, the so-called EU-3 group of Britain, Germany and France, which have led negotiations with Iran since 2003, were also having trouble agreeing on a joint statement, with Britain backing the American hard line but Germany and France not fully agreeing, the diplomat said.

A second diplomat confirmed that there were "disagreements" among this group but said they were still working on a joint statement.

The EU-3 have issued joint statements at previous board meetings, while the six world powers have not.

And Finland, speaking for the 25 EU states, was to call Wednesday on Iran to suspend enrichment not as "a voluntary confidence-building measure, but an international obligation," according to a copy of a speech seen by AFP.

The speech makes clear that the Security Council intends to "adopt appropriate measures," meaning sanctions if Iran does not suspend enrichment.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei was present a report Wednesday to his board that documents how Iran failed to heed the UN deadline to suspend enrichment.

But the IAEA is not expected to take any action on Iran in order to leave room for the diplomatic initiatives which are unfolding.

"Right now, no one is going to do anything unexpected," an EU diplomat said about the work at the IAEA board.

"I guess everybody is going to give Solana a chance to find a way to get Iran to the negotiating table."

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