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. US optimistic Iran nuclear resolution will soon pass at UN
WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (AFP) Dec 08, 2006
The major UN powers have narrowed their differences over the terms of a sanctions resolution to punish Iran for refusing to freeze its uranium enrichment activities, a senior US official said Friday.

The five permanent Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany will resume talks next week at UN headquarters in New York, a round State Department spokesman Sean McCormack characterized as "end-game discussions".

"The sense is the differences are narrowing," McCormack said after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the issue here Friday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

"Mr. Ivanov made it very clear that we are all in this process together," McCormack said when asked if Washington and Moscow had bridged their significant differences over what kinds of sanctions should be imposed on Iran.

Rice hinted last week that in the absence of a breakthrough in efforts to draft a consensus resolution, Washington could push a vote through the Security Council at the risk of seeing Russia abstain.

But McCormack expressed renewed hope Thursday that a resolution could be agreed unanimously.

"We remain hopeful that, in the near future, we will be able to get a resolution that everybody can vote for, that we will be able to maintain unity on the Security Council," he said.

McCormack cautioned though that talks were continuing, including in Washington Friday between the State Department's top non-proliferation expert, Robert Joseph, and his Russian counterpart Sergei Sergei Kislyak.

A Western diplomat at the United Nations in New York said the renewed talks would focus on a slightly amended version of a draft resolution initially presented by Britain, France and Germany which was unable to garner the support of the other three governments.

The original draft would have barred trade with Iran in goods related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and impose financial and travel restrictions on persons and agencies involved.

Uranium enrichment is used to make nuclear fuel as well as the core of an atom bomb. Iran insists it only wants to enrich uranium for peaceful energy ends.

Russia, and to a lesser extent China, have sought to narrow the scope of the sanctions, with Moscow wanting to limit the measures to nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities while not covering civilian nuclear energy production, according to US officials.

Senior diplomats from the so-called P5-plus-1 grouping met in Paris earlier this week but failed to overcome their differences.

The Western diplomat said the amended draft would be circulated later Friday to the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.

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