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. Six major UN powers consider fresh sanctions on Iran
UNITED NATIONS, March 5 (AFP) Mar 06, 2007
Envoys of six major powers met Monday to consider a new set of sanctions designed to coax Iran into suspending uranium enrichment.

Diplomats from the Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany met for 90 minutes at Britain's UN mission in New York to discuss elements of a new draft resolution that would tighten sanctions adopted by the council last December.

The elements were discussed by senior officials of the six powers during a telephone conversation Saturday.

Both Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya and his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin said the proposed new draft would give Iran 60 days to comply with UN demands that it freeze sensitive nuclear fuel work or face more sanctions.

"There are many things in common, but there are some differences," Wang told reporters after the meeting. "We want to expand (Security Council resolution 1737 adopted in December) in an incremental, proportional way."

"We are discussing elements that build on 1737," said US acting ambassador Alejandro Wolff who also expressed hope an acceptable draft will emerge "soon".

The December sanctions were imposed on Tehran for spurning UN demands that it suspend uranium enrichment seen as a possible pathway to a nuclear bomb.

They were agreed only after months of tense negotiations, with Russia in particular resisting US pressure for tougher action.

They included a ban on the sale of nuclear and ballistic missile-related materials to the Islamic Republic and a freeze on financial assets of Iranians involved in illicit atomic and missile research.

Wang said the six envoys would continue their discussions Tuesday afternoon.

Churkin meanwhile said the 10 non-permanent members of the council would be briefed tomorrow on "the drift of our discussions".

"We'll keep them posted as we proceed," he noted, adding that "there is a very good chance" that the proposed resolution would be adopted this month.

German Ambassador Thomas Matussek said under consideration were a travel ban on Iranian officials involved in banned nuclear and missile programs, expansion of the assets freeze targeting those officials and of the list of items Iran is banned from importing or exporting.

"The slogan we use for this one (round of bargaining) is 'swift and modest'," he added.

Matussek said a US proposal for an arms embargo faced stiff opposition from Russia and China, which maintains close economic and energy ties with Tehran.

"The meeting confirmed an agreement on an incremental approach," French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said. "We focused the discussion on the measures that could be adopted to convince Iran to suspend its dangerous activities and to come back to negotiation."

In a related development, US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns -- in New York for a speech at a private luncheon -- paid a courtesy call on UN chief Ban Ki-moon here.

On Saturday, Burns and political directors from China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany agreed during a telephone conversation to send the Iranian nuclear issue to their UN representatives after failing to resolve differences, US officials said.

Iran has repeatedly denied that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and maintains it has a right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct uranium enrichment for electricity generation.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers on Monday urged "the international community to act with necessary firmness" in support of a new UN resolution against Tehran.

At the same time the EU wants "to continue working on a double track," said EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana in the Belgian capital. "We will always offer the open door to negotiations."

The French, British and German ambassadors have repeatedly insisted that the UN sanctions will be suspended if Tehran in turn agrees to suspend uranium enrichment.

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