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. Russia demands revision of European proposals for UN sanctions on Iran
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 3 (AFP) Nov 04, 2006
Russia on Friday demanded extensive changes to European proposals to punish Iran for its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work as six major powers haggled anew over the sanctions package.

Envoys of Germany and the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- met privately for an hour at Britain's UN mission in New York to resume discussions on a UN draft resolution mandating nuclear- and ballistic-missile-related trade sanctions.

The draft, put forward by Britain, France and Germany, also calls for a freeze on assets related to Iran's nuclear and missile programs and travel bans on scientists involved in those programs.

But it would allow Russia to continue building a one-billion-dollar nuclear power plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr -- an exemption that diplomats say is crucial to efforts to gain Moscow's approval.

Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, who returned here Thursday from Moscow with instructions on how to amend the draft, told reporters after the meeting: "I brought from Moscow some amendments ... and we agreed we'll continue our discussion."

"We do believe the Bushehr project does not have anything to do with concerns about non-proliferation because it is clearly a peaceful nuclear power plant we are helping the Iranians build," he added.

"The changes (proposed by the Russians) were extensive and that's why we didn't get into a line in line out discussion ourselves. So they circulated theirs (amendments), we'll circulate ours a little bit later, and we'll meet next week is my assumption," his US counterpart John Bolton said.

China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya meanwhile said he shared Churkin's views.

"I think it (the European draft) is a little too tough, it might corner the Iranians," Wang said. "China always argues that sanctions measures taken by the Security Council have to be in stages and have to be in a way putting some political pressure on the Iranians to come back to negotiations."

In Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the European draft as he held talks with top European Union officials.

Although Lavrov voiced willingness to apply "reasonable" and "proportional" measures against Iran, he warned that the European draft went too far.

Lavrov said that "measures which we would introduce would have to be reasonable, take account of the real situation, should be proportional given the actual situation as regards the nuclear program in Iran and should also be in stages."

"We were prepared and are still prepared to draw up measures of that sort," he told journalists. "What the EU troika drew up went way beyond what had been agreed," he added.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played down the Russian stance.

"I think you will find that ultimately they won't block us. I think we will have a resolution that puts sanctions on Iran," she said. "It won't be as strong a resolution as if we had written it ourselves. But I think what you're seeing is some negotiation right now about what that resolution is going to say."

A diplomatic source here earlier said Russia wanted the sponsors to drop any reference to Bushehr from the draft and to remove the travel ban and assets freeze.

The Russians will support only a ban on "sensitive (nuclear) technologies", he added.

"I believe the resolution which the Security Council will be considering should facilitate the continuation of our talks with the Iranians," Churkin said, referring to the inconclusive talks between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Kisliak also stressed Friday that Russia remained firmly opposed to the European draft as it currently stands.

"We can't support it in its current form," he told the Interfax news agency.

The informal discussions were suspended a week ago as Russia and China expressed reluctance to agree tough sanctions against a country with which they have close energy and trade ties.

Washington, meanwhile, views the European proposals as not going far enough.

Iran faces a package of gradual but reversible sanctions after spurning an earlier Security Council resolution mandating a freeze on its uranium enrichment program -- a process that can eventually provide fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists the program is only geared toward generating electricity.

The six powers have offered Tehran a package of economic and diplomatic incentives if it gives up the enrichment program.

The European sponsors plan to circulate their draft to the council's 10 non-permanent members next week.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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