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. Divided UN powers to meet for Iran talks on Tuesday
MOSCOW, Dec 2 (AFP) Dec 02, 2006
A meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to discuss a UN resolution on Iran's nuclear program will go ahead Tuesday, after Russia on Saturday withdrew a statement saying it had been called off due to disagreements.

"The meeting of political directors of the six (countries) will take place on Tuesday," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on arrival in Moscow from talks in Egypt, Russian news agencies reported.

On leaving Egypt hours earlier, the same agencies reported Lavrov as saying that the meeting had been cancelled because some of the participants were "avoiding continuing the job."

He gave no indication of which countries had voiced reservations, or whether he had been in touch with any of Russia's partners during the flight.

He said it was still not certain where it would take place, saying it would likely be held "somewhere in Europe, probably in Paris."

A foreign ministry spokesman in Paris confirmed that the meeting would take place "early next week" but was unable to name the venue.

Amid the confused signals, there was little sign that the so-called P5-plus-one group -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- was any closer to bridging wide disagreements on the issue.

The six have been trying for weeks to agree on what sanctions to impose on Iran for its refusal to comply with an earlier UN resolution requiring it to freeze a uranium enrichment program.

While all six states have agreed in principle to impose some sanctions until Iran agrees to suspend the enrichment and enter into negotiations on its nuclear program, Russia and China have balked at the terms of a draft resolution drawn up by Britain, France and Germany.

The United States and its European allies are seeking sanctions under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which legally obliges all UN members to comply with the punitive measures.

In an apparent warning to Moscow and Beijing, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that the United States might try to force through a United Nations resolution imposing sanctions without their support, although she still hoped to obtain agreement among the six.

"Obviously we'd like to keep the unity of the P5-plus-one, but unity is not an end in itself," Rice said after talks with Arab officials in Jordan.

A draft resolution circulated by Britain, France and Germany would have barred trade with Iran in goods related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and slapped financial and travel restrictions on persons and agencies involved in the sectors.

But Russia and to a lesser extent China, which have extensive economic and energy ties with Iran, have tried to water down the resolution.

"We will proceed from the principle that the goal of this document will not be to punish Iran," Lavrov said Saturday, RIA Novosti reported.

On Friday the head of the UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei threw his weight behind a flexible approach in dealing with Iran.

"You can use sanctions but sanctions alone as we know by experience will not resolve issues. You need to use incentives and disincentives.

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