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. World powers to meet in Paris on Iran nuclear sanctions
PARIS, Dec 4 (AFP) Dec 04, 2006
Six world powers are to meet Tuesday in Paris in their latest bid to secure agreement on a package of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend sensitive nuclear activities.

High-ranking diplomats from the five veto-wielding UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany will attend the talks Tuesday evening at the French foreign ministry.

A representative of European Union policy chief Javier Solana will also participate in the meeting.

France's Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Monday the talks -- which follow several failed attempts to secure a deal on sanctions against Iran -- had a strong chance of succeeding.

"I think that we can now reach agreement on the text," he said in Brussels, after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

World powers have been trying for weeks to agree what sanctions to impose on Iran for its refusal to comply with a UN deadline to freeze uranium enrichment, which can be used to generate electricity or to build an atomic weapons.

While all agree on the principle of sanctions, there are wide disagreements on what form these should take.

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 either area.

But Russia and to a lesser extent China, which have extensive economic and energy ties with Iran, have tried to water down the text, saying the sanctions should not target individuals and should be limited in duration.

Meanwhile Washington wants to beef up at least the wording of the text.

The United States has shown signs of impatience recently with the reluctance of Moscow and Beijing to put the package of sanctions to the vote in the Security Council.

On Thursday, US Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice said Washington may seek to impose a vote in spite of Russian objections.

Determined to clinch an agreement, the Europeans have circulated a revised draft -- the details of which have not been disclosed -- designed to take "the concerns of all sides into account", according to the French foreign ministry.

"The idea is to arrive quickly at a resolution, to preserve the credibility of the Security Council," said a diplomat close to the negotiations.

More than three months have passed since the expiry of a UN deadline for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment under the threat of sanctions.

Initially, the six powers decided to allow Iran more time to comply, asking the EU's Solana to undertake a dialogue with the top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

But after several weeks of fruitless negotiations the case returned to the Security Council.

A meeting of the six powers in mid-November ended without an agreement, and the case was handed back to the political directors of their respective foreign ministries who were asked to clarify certain highly technical aspects of the sanctions project.

The six powers suspect Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian power generation programme -- which Tehran strongly denies.

Such fears prompted Israel on Sunday to approve the creation of a new ministry for strategic affairs, to deal mainly with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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