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. Russia, US table amendments to Iran sanctions draft: French envoy
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 (AFP) Dec 13, 2006
Russia and the United States on Wednesday presented amendments to a revised European draft resolution mandating Security Council sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work, France's UN envoy said.

Ambassadors of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- the council's five veto-wielding members -- plus Germany huddled behind closed doors Wednesday morning to compare notes on the revised European draft.

"We have really started the discussions this morning," France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere told reporters. "The discussion is going on in a very good mood and I think we are making progress."

He said his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin and US delegate Alejandro Wolff both presented amendments to the European draft.

"We are now looking paragrah by paragraph" at the text, de La Sabliere said, adding that another meeting of the six envoys would take place soon.

Monday Churkin hailed changes to the draft drawn up by France, Britain and Germany but objected to a proposed travel ban on officials linked to Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.

The draft would mandate a ban on trade with Iran on goods related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and impose financial and travel restrictions on persons and entities involved.

The sponsors dropped all references in the draft to Iran's first nuclear power station, a one-billion-dollar facility which Russia is helping to build in Bushehr.

The new text contains in its annex a list of 12 officials targeted for a travel ban, including some associated with the Natanz nuclear fuel processing facility and with the heavy-water reactor Iran is building in Arak, as well as Iran's Revolutionary Guards chief General Yahya Rahim Safavi.

Meanwhile Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed Wednesday that the Islamic Republic would make further progress in its nuclear program despite the objections of world powers, state television reported.

"In the nuclear energy issue, international powers insisted that Iran should not achieve this advanced technology, but Iranians unanimously insisted on obtaining this right and as a result reached a very advanced level.

Tehran has consistently rejected UN demands that it halt uranium enrichment, a process which can provide fuel for nuclear reactors but, also in highly refined form, material for the core of a nuclear bomb.

The West claims Iran is running a secret nuclear military program parallel to its civilian one, an allegation strongly denied by Tehran which says its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful and aimed at producing electricity.

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