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. UN Security Council likely to approve Iran sanctions Saturday: diplomats
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 22 (AFP) Dec 23, 2006
The Security Council will likely approve Saturday a slightly amended European draft resolution mandating UN nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, diplomats said late Friday.

"We have decided to meet for a vote tomorrow (Saturday) at 11:00 am (1600 GMT)" on a new, slightly amended draft resolution put forward by European sponsors, France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere told reporters after consultations of the 15-nation Security Council.

"We will take action tomorrow at 11:00 am," Qatar's UN envoy Nasser Abdelaziz al-Nasser, who chairs the council for December, confirmed. He added the vote would follow last-minute consultations among council members.

A Western diplomat close to the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the latest draft resolution would be endorsed overwhelmingly and possibly unanimously.

China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters that he planned to consult with his government before the vote.

The vote will take place exactly two months after Britain, France and Germany first introduced a sanctions draft resolution following Iran's failure to comply with an August 31 council deadline to halt its sensitive nuclear fuel work.

The European draft has been amended several times as Russia and China, which have close economic and energy ties with Tehran, deemed it too tough and likely to irk the Iranians while Washington sought a tougher text.

Russia pressed for a one-day delay in a previously planned Friday vote on the text sanctioning Iran for pursuing uranium enrichment.

The changes agreed late Friday among the six major powers trying to scale down Iran's nuclear ambitions -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- were purely cosmetic, raising questions as to why the Russians wanted to postpone the vote.

The Western diplomat said Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted on seeing the final text before Saturday's vote.

The draft resolution calls for a ban on trade with Iran in goods related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

An annex to the draft lists persons and entities involved in proliferation-sensitive nuclear and missile programs that will be subjected to financial restrictions.

To overcome Russian objections, the sponsors Wednesday watered down a proposal for a travel ban on 12 officials directly linked to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and also listed in the annex.

The text warns that if Tehran refuses to comply with demands that it halt sensitive nuclear fuel work, the Security Council "shall adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter Seven" of the UN charter, a reference to non-military sanctions.

Western countries want to impose sanctions on Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment activities which they fear would help Tehran develop nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly peaceful and aimed at providing electricity for a growing population.

Thursday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed that nothing would stop Iran from pushing ahead with its nuclear program.

"The bullying powers today, in confronting Iran's peaceful nuclear technology, are faced with a sea of courageous people," Ahmadinejad said in a speech.

A senior cleric in Iran echoed that defiance Friday.

"We should tell foreign enemies that this is the Iranian nation; whether you adopt a resolution or whatever hostile act, ... our people will withstand it," senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Janati said in a Friday prayer sermon in Tehran carried live on state radio.

"If they were only a little bit reasonable, they would come forward for negotiations. This would be in their own interest. They should come and sign economic and cultural contracts with the Iranian people and the Islamic government," added Janati, head of the powerful legislative watchdog the Guardians Council.

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