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. Six powers say deal on UN Iran sanctions unlikely this week
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 14 (AFP) Dec 15, 2006
Envoys of six major powers said Thursday they were unlikely to reach common ground this week on UN sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze nuclear fuel work, but agreed to meet again Friday to discuss the issue.

Ambassadors of the Security Council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany held yet another round of informal discussions here Thursday on a revised European draft resolution.

The text 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.

"We are going to meet again tomorrow afternoon," France's UN envoy Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said. "My goal is to complete the negotiations before Christmas. I think we can do it."

But he added: "it will take probably some more days to finalize the text."

"We are still working the issues," said US acting ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff. Washington has said it finds the European draft acceptable.

One unresolved issue is the proposed travel ban that would target officials directly involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"We just don't think it belongs (in the text)," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

The 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.

Russia and China, which have close economic ties with Tehran, have been trying to water down the draft drawn up by France, Britain and Germany.

Tehran has spurned an August 31 UN deadline to freeze uranium enrichment, arguing that it has the right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it signed to pursue such activities.

Uranium enrichment can provide fuel for nuclear reactors but also, in highly refined form, material for the core of a nuclear bomb.

Western powers suspect the Islamic Republic is seeking to acquire a nuclear weapons capability under the cover of its civilian nuclear program. But Tehran denies the allegation and maintains its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful and aimed at producing electricity.

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