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. Major UN powers still deadlocked over Iran sanctions resolution
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 7 (AFP) Nov 08, 2006
Six major UN powers wound up another round of informal bargaining Tuesday, still deadlocked over how to punish Iran for its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work.

Envoys of the Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany huddled for one hour at France's UN mission for yet another inconclusive session on sanctions proposed by three European nations.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya described the six-way talks, which focused on the European draft as well as on amendments offered by Russia and the United States, as "inconclusive" and spoke of differences "that cannot be bridged".

"We are not in serious discussion. I believe we need more time," he added. "There should be more reflection in the capitals and also we need to talk to each other."

His Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin spoke of a "gap" between his amendments and the European text but sounded a little more upbeat.

"There's a gap but I wouldn't describe it as a fundamental difference. We'll continue to pursue this objective of having a negotiated outcome" to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

"I thought the mood was okay ... There's room for further constructive discussion on the text we have on the table," Churkin said, hinting that protracted haggling was likely before agreement could be reached.

The draft, which had already been the subject of two previous meetings among envoys of the six powers over the past two weeks, mandates nuclear- and ballistic missile-related trade sanctions against Tehran.

It 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 Bushehr -- an exemption that diplomats say is crucial to efforts to gain Moscow's approval.

Earlier Tuesday, the full 15-member Security Council held its first formal consultations on the draft.

Ahead of the consultations, US Ambassador John Bolton said amendments proposed by the Russians to a European draft resolution last week were not "consistent with" what foreign ministers of the six major powers had agreed last summer.

But Churkin disagreed, saying after the council consultations: "We believe our approach, our proposals are fully in conformity with the understanding by the ministers."

Diplomatic sources said there appears to be a philosophical difference in the way Western ambassadors on one side and their counterparts from Russia and China on the other interpreted what the ministers had agreed to do if Tehran refused to comply with the demand that it halt uranium enrichment.

"The discussions (in the council) are still at a very preliminary stage," said Peru's UN envoy Jorge Voto-Bernales, the council president for November. "There is still much work to do ... No time frame has been put forward."

"The Russian amendments narrow the scope of the sanctions while the US proposals would broaden the scope of the sanctions," a Western diplomat close to the discussions said.

A Western diplomat said the sponsors did not produce a new draft and indicated that the council's five permanent members and Germany likely would meet again before the end of the week.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack expressed some impatience about the pace of UN negotiations on the Iran sanctions.

"We believe that the matter merits some degree of urgency, because as we have these discussions, the Iranians are proceeding along their merry way, spinning their centrifuges, getting every single day a little bit better at this," he noted.

Last week Churkin made it clear that the purpose of any future Security Council action was to encourage Iran to come back to the negotiating table, not to turn it away from negotiations.

Diplomatic sources meanwhile said Washington was pressing for language making it clear that the Iranian nuclear program represents a "threat to international peace and security".

Asked to comment on this point, Churkin replied Tuesday: "We don't see it that way."

In a related development, the Russian foreign ministry announced Tuesday that Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki would confer with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Iran's nuclear program and other issues during a visit to Moscow Thursday and Friday.

Iran faces sanctions after spurning an August 31 Security Council deadline to halt its uranium enrichment program -- a process that can lead to the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity.

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

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