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. Security Council set to vote Friday on Iran sanctions
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 20 (AFP) Dec 21, 2006
Under pressure from the United States, the UN Security Council on Wednesday edged toward a Friday vote on a compromise draft resolution mandating sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear fuel work.

After the European sponsors offered concessions to overcome Russian objections, Britain's UN envoy Emyr Jones Parry announced: "The president of the council concluded there would be a vote on Friday morning" on the watered-down text.

The new draft, which watered down a contentious proposal for a travel ban on 12 officials directly linked to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, was circulated to the council's 15 members Wednesday.

"The travel ban is gone," said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, saying the issue was "addressed in a creative manner which is more in line with our original thinking".

The new draft, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, finessed the issue by making the travel ban voluntary.

It urged "all states to exercise vigilance regarding the entry into or transit through their territories of individuals who are engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran's proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems."

It further says that all states shall notify a monitoring committee "of the entry into or transit through their territories of persons" designated in the draft's annex as well as additional persons found to be linked with Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The compromise text drawn up by Britain, France and Germany emerged after several rounds of bargaining Wednesday involving envoys of the Security Council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- as well as Germany.

"We are down to two or three issues to be tackled," Churkin said. "I hope they will be by tomorrow."

The new draft also eases some of the financial restrictions slapped on entities or persons linked to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"We believe there is no reason we should not have a vote tomorrow," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

US acting ambassador Alejandro Wolff said he was consulting with Washington over the latest changes to the draft.

Asked about the travel ban, which earlier this week he described as a "priority" issue for the US side, Wolff said: "We're still negotiating this... we want a vote early and we want a really good resolution."

"We have been working very hard on this resolution which unfortunately we have to do because Iran has not agreed to suspend certain activities which would have opened the door to negotiations," Churkin said.

The aim, he added, was to "make sure this is a careful targeted resolution, which would created some problems for Iran in pursuing activities which the Security Council does not want to pursue but also will make it very clear that the door is open for negotiation when Iran accepts the requirement for suspension."

Moscow, which like China has strong economic ties with Tehran, strongly backs Iran's right to civilian nuclear technology. The Russians are building the Islamic Republic's first atomic power station in Bushehr.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meanwhile spoke by telephone Wednesday with her British counterpart Margaret Beckett to discuss "ways to close the remaining gaps" over the wording of the draft, McComarck said.

"I would caution that we're not there yet, we don't have a final agreement on a resolution," the US spokesman added.

The draft calls for a mandatory ban on trade with Iran in goods related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and place financial restrictions on persons and entities involved in the sectors.

It demands that Iran "without further delay suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development and work on all heavy water related projects."

It calls for a report within 60 days by the head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency on whether Iran has complied with fully with UN demands.

It warns that if Tehran refuses to comply, the council "shall adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter Seven" of the UN charter", a reference to economic sanctions only.

The United States and other Western countries suspect that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear energy program. Tehran denies this.

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