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. Britain rules out war over Iran nuclear programme
ABU DHABI, March 21 (AFP) Mar 21, 2007
Britain on Wednesday ruled out war with Iran over its nuclear programme as Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett discussed a drive to impose fresh UN sanctions against Tehran with Gulf Arab allies.

"No one is preparing for military action" against Iran, Beckett told reporters after talks with her United Arab Emirates counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, which will be followed on Thursday by a visit to non-permanent UN Security Council member Qatar.

"The purpose of the sanctions proposals... is to get them (Iran) to come to negotiation. None of us wishes to impose sanctions... We want Iran to negotiate and come to agreement with the international community," she said.

On Wednesday the Security Council was to begin crucial bargaining on whether to approve new UN sanctions against Iran proposed by Britain and the four other permanent council members -- the United States, France, China and Russia -- plus Germany.

The effort to toughen sanctions imposed in December after Iran refused to suspend sensitive nuclear fuel work follows a US naval buildup in the Gulf region, where two US aircraft carrier groups are currently deployed.

Western powers suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies the charge, saying it is pursuing a purely civilian programme.

The new Security Council draft bans Tehran from exporting arms, calls for voluntary trade sanctions and expands a list of officials and companies targeted for financial and travel restrictions.

Beckett said she discussed the draft resolution with the Emirati foreign minister, whose oil-rich country is Iran's largest trading partner.

"Obviously, all members of the United Nations are asked to take heed of Security Council resolutions, so there was no specificity about my conversations," she said when asked if she had specifically urged the UAE to downgrade trade links with Tehran.

The UAE's official WAM news agency earlier quoted Sheikh Abdullah as saying during the talks that Iran should "accept international demands" to suspend uranium enrichment "to avoid more tension in the region."

Beckett said she would visit neighbouring Qatar on Thursday, where "I'll be talking to our colleagues about Security Council matters, because of Qatar being an important member of the Security Council at this time."

Gas-rich Qatar has good relations with Iran.

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