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. Russia hopes for UN consensus on Iran by year's end: minister
MOSCOW, Dec 16 (AFP) Dec 16, 2006
Consensus in the UN Security Council on Iran's nuclear program can be reached in the next two weeks if negotiators take "a realistic approach," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday, RIA Novosti reported.

"I hope that it is entirely realistic to come to a consensus in the days remaining before the New Year if our partners take a realistic approach and do not insist on certain positions which we are convinced have nothing to do with the task before us -- inducing Iran to talks and not trying to punish it," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

The Security Council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany have been struggling to reach consensus on a resolution because of Russia and China's opposition to harsh sanctions favored by Western states.

Lavrov expressed "cautious optimism" about the course of the talks, saying: "We are succeeding in bringing our positions closer, the process continues, though artificial problems are appearing along the way."

Western negotiators are pushing for sanctions after Iran ignored a previous Security Council resolution calling for it to stop enriching uranium, which the West fears may be used for weapons development but which Iran insists is destined for its civilian energy program.

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