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. UN draft on new Iran sanctions not likely this week: diplomats
UNITED NATIONS, March 6 (AFP) Mar 07, 2007
Major powers mulling new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance are unlikely to agree on a UN Security council draft resolution this week, diplomats said late Tuesday.

Ambassadors from the council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany had hoped to present a text to the full 15-member council this week.

But after conferring informally for the second day in a row Tuesday, the six envoys felt that more time was needed to consult their respective capitals and bridge lingering differences over the proposed measures, said the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"I don't think we'll have a draft this week," one diplomat said.

Also Tuesday, Britain's UN Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, acting on behalf of six powers trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, briefed the 10 non-permanent members of the Council on "elements" of a resolution that would build on UN sanctions adopted last December.

The proposed resolution would include a travel ban, an arms embargo, financial and trade restrictions and expanding a list of people or entities involved in nuclear and ballistic missile work subjected to an assets freeze, said South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, who chairs the Security Council for March, after the briefing.

Jones Parry described them as "an incremental ratcheting up" of the December sanctions, adding that the door was still open for Iran to return to the negotiating table by complying with demands that it freeze uranium enrichment.

The sanctions adopted by the council in December 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 ballistic missile research.

The punitive measures were imposed after Tehran spurned UN demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used to develop a nuclear bomb.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya stressed that the six had not yet begun drafting a text. "We are comparing notes...and we will continue the discussions."

Both he and his French counterpart Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said the six would not hold consultations on the issue here Wednesday.

On Monday, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said "there was a very good chance" that a draft would be approved by the full council before the end of the month.

But differences among the six powers remained.

German Ambassador Thomas Matussek Monday said the proposed ban on arms exports to Iran faced stiff opposition from Russia and China, which maintains close economic and energy ties with Tehran.

And he indicated that his own government was reluctant to agree to restrictions on export credits.

"We do not want to hurt our small and medium-sized enterprises ...So we have to calibrate in a way that we get the message across. On the other hand we don't want to shoot ourselves in the foot," he told AFP.

Meanwhile some diplomats said they were intrigued by reports that Iran appeared to have at least temporarily paused on the development of its uranium enrichment program.

Still Iran publicly remains defiant, denying it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and insisting it has a right under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct uranium enrichment for electricity generation.

Yet in an interview published Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his government was prepared to hold negotiations or even reopen diplomatic ties with the United States as long as Washington set no preconditions.

Diplomats from the United States and Iran are expected to attend a conference on Iraq's security in Baghdad on March 10, but Tehran has said there will be no bilateral contacts at the event.

Meanwhile the European Union was set to condemn Iran's continued nuclear defiance but still urge negotiations, at a meeting of the UN atomic agency this week in Vienna.

A draft of an EU statement to be delivered on Thursday says "a comprehensive offer is still on the table and the door remains open," referring to a deal of trade, security and technology benefits for Iran if it guarantees it will not seek nuclear weapons.

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