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. Major powers weigh sanctions against Iran's nuclear, missile sectors
NEW YORK, Sept 22 (AFP) Sep 23, 2006
World powers are considering imposing sanctions that would target Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile sectors if Tehran persists in refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, a diplomatic source said Friday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the sanctions were discussed by senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States here on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The sanctions would be the first in an escalating series of punitive measures against Tehran though world powers are not ready to go ahead with penalties while negotiations continue.

"The core of the sanctions would affect goods, services and people linked to the ballistic and nuclear sectors," said the official who monitored the discussions.

In addition to equipment supplies, the sanctions might also target travel by scientists or financing or research programs.

The Russians, who have been reluctant to back sanctions against Iran, would prefer more limited measures than those advocated by the Americans, the official said.

But after Friday's meeting, "the general impression is that there will be an agreement and that there is no indication of a rift between the United States and Russia," he added.

Iran faces the prospect of sanctions after it failed to comply with a UN Security Council resolution that gave it until August 31 to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, which can provide fuel for nuclear power plants or material for nuclear weapons.

The six major powers have offered the Iranians a package of economic and diplomatic incentives, including the first formal contacts with the United States in nearly 30 years, if they halt their nuclear program.

Amid hopes negotiations underway could produce a breakthrough, the major powers have agreed to set a new deadline of early October for Iran to cooperate or face the start of sanctions, according to US and European officials.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani were due to return to negotiations this week in New York but Larijani failed to show up and Iranian officials have said the talks will not resume until next week in Europe.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who addressed the UN General Assembly this week, meanwhile reaffirmed Iran's willingness to negotiate on the issue of an uranium enrichment freeze "under fair and just conditions", without offering any timetable.

Earlier Friday, Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, said that the meeting with his counterparts would not yield an agreement due to the continuing reluctance of some partners to use sanctions.

"I think there are still differences among us," he said. "I don't anticipate that at the end of today, we will be able to have an agreement, but we will be able to have discussions," he said.

How to proceed on the Iran nuclear issue was also on the agenda of a dinner Friday night among the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight developed countries being hosted by Russia, he said. The G8 includes Italy and Japan, which both have strong economic ties to Tehran.

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