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. US and allies want speedy Iran sanctions resolution
LONDON, Feb 27 (AFP) Feb 27, 2007
The United States and its allies maintained pressure Tuesday for tougher sanctions against Iran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

The US State Department said a meeting of six world powers in London on Monday had agreed on the need for a new sanctions resolution by the UN Security Council.

France's Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said a new resolution could be quickly agreed by the council's permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. France wants economic sanctions, he added.

Officials from the five countries plus Germany agreed at the London meeting to hold new talks on Thursday, the British Foreign Office said.

Russia and China, which have in the past opposed tough sanctions, did not immediately say how they wanted to proceed against Iran's nuclear programme, which the United States says hides efforts to build an atomic bomb.

Iran has returned to the diplomatic centre stage after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report last week said the Islamic Republic had ignored a Security Council's deadline to stop enriching uranium.

The London meeting was the first effort to agree an international response.

"We had a productive first discussion of the next steps following the director general of the IAEA's confirmation that Iran has failed to comply with SCR (Security Council resolution) 1737," John Sawers, a British Foreign Office official who chaired Monday's talks, said.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the parties involved would resume talks again Thursday by telephone "to hammer out the elements of a UN sanctions resolution".

He said the six still wanted Iran to negotiate, but added: "We are equally committed to sending the message to the Iranian government: should they choose not to proceed down that pathway, then there will be consequences."

The French foreign minister said "there must be a second resolution" after an IAEA report and expressed confidence that after Monday's meeting, agreement on a resolution could be achieved.

"It is highly likely that we can quickly agree together -- the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans, the British and the French -- on a second resolution with economic sanctions," Douste-Blazy said.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear activity is to develop power for peaceful purposes. But tensions were heightened when it sent its first rocket into space on Sunday and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likened uranium enrichment to "a train on a one-way track".

Iran again highlighted its refusal to back down on Tuesday.

"One thing that is not feasible is the Iranian nation backing down on having nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told a conference in Tehran.

He recalled that Iran had temporarily suspended uranium enrichment activities in 2004 but said that Iran had received nothing in return.

Russia, which is building a nuclear reactor for Iran, has not stated its views about new sanctions but its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Moscow was "worried" about the possibility of US military action against Iran.

"We are worried that the forecasts and suppositions of a possible attack on Iran have become more frequent," Lavrov said. He referred in particular to comments made last week by US Vice President Dick Cheney, who said that "all options are still on the table" for Washington to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The United States has insisted it has no military plans against Iran, but it has beefed up its naval presence in the Gulf. The US aircraft carrier groups in the region is the highest concentration since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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